At Over $9,000 Per
Pupil Per Year,
Is More Spending the
How much does K-12 education cost these days?
According to the most recent government figures, schools are
spending an average of $9,154 per pupil, per year in their operating budgets.
Adjusting for inflation, current spending per pupil has
grown 25% since 1995, and 51% since 1985, according to the National Center for
Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
The money that schools spend on "off-budget" items, chiefly
construction expenses and debt service, will add more to the total. Then there
is all the education-related spending by nonprofit organizations, foundations,
enrichment programs, churches, and many others.
Bottom line: school spending per pupil totals well over
twice as many inflation-adjusted dollars as was being spent a generation ago.
Chief culprits: governmental regulations associated with standards-based
education and the constant assessment requirements of No Child Left Behind, the
"socialization" of in-school services, and immense amounts of money to try to
remediate students who are "at risk" of dropping out or in special education
programs, largely because of reading disability.
So is the answer to allocate more
money to schools? In a word, no.
Why? Because there is absolutely no
connection between increased school spending, and increased student
The authority on that fact, which
often comes as news to members of the public, since school administrators and
union officials would have you believe otherwise, is Eric
Hanushek of the Hoover Institution, part of Stanford University. His body of work has demonstrated
that the answer isn't in throwing still more money at our schools. It's in
being smarter about spending the generous resources that are already in place.
Homework: Does your state spend more, or
less, than the national average on actual classroom instruction? See this table
from the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of