Public School Spending Climbs While Test Scores Stagnate

Nov 15, 2017 by

Education: Some little-noticed provisions in the GOP tax plan could have a big impact on public schools. It’s a start. The education system in this country is overdue for shake-up because it has for years been grossly mismanaging taxpayer money.

Autoplay: On | OffThe National Education Association blasted the GOP tax reform plan saying that eliminating the state and local tax deduction for those who itemize taxes would be a severe blow to schools, putting 250,000 education jobs at risk.

“It would,” says NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, “jeopardize the ability of state and local governments to fund public education. That will translate into cuts to public schools, lost jobs to educators, overcrowded classrooms that deprive students of one-on-one attention, and threaten public education.”

There are other provisions in the tax bill that might worry teachers’ unions, such as letting parents use 529 college savings plans to pay for elementary and secondary school costs. That would help make private schools more affordable — a small step toward encouraging school choice.

But it’s the so-called SALT deduction that has the unions up in arms. Why? Because getting rid of it might force high-tax states — which benefit the most from the deduction — to cut taxes and rein in their own spending.

Of course, that’s pure speculation on the NEA’s part. States won’t be obligated to change anything if the SALT deduction goes away.

Let’s assume the NEA is correct about spending cuts to public schools. Will that “threaten public education”?

That’s far from clear. After all, massive spending increases haven’t helped.

Per-pupil spending in public schools climbed 121%, after adjusting for inflation, from 1980 to 2014 — the last year for which the Department of Education has statistics.

Let that sink in. We spend more than twice as much per student in real terms now than in 1980. Does anyone think children are getting twice as good an education?

Where has that money gone? Not much of it went to teachers. While enrollment in public schools climbed 23% over those years, the number of teachers climbed 43%.

But the ranks of public school administrators shot up 88% over those years. And the number of people performing other jobs in public schools — janitors, librarians, teachers’ aides, principals, etc. — climbed 56%.

Meanwhile, test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have barely budged for decades, and our children rank well below our international competitors. U.S. students lost ground on the Program for International Student Assessment, where average scores for 15-year-olds on reading, math and science all declined slightly between 2000 and 2015. On the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study tests, U.S. students eked out gains of only 5% for math and 3% for science from 1995 to 2015.

What’s needed to improve education in the U.S. isn’t more money, it’s more efficient, more accountable and higher performing schools. A good way to achieve that is to inject more competition into the system. To the extent that the GOP tax plan moves in this direction, it will be a win for education and a win for students.

Source: Public School Spending Climbs While Test Scores Stagnate | Stock News & Stock Market Analysis – IBD

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