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Finance & Taxation        < Previous        Next >


At Over $9,000 Per Pupil Per Year,

Is More Spending the Answer?


Q. 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 achievement.


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 Education:



By Susan Darst Williams Finance & Taxation 03 2008


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