February 1 2010
State of the Union Perpetuates Myth that Resource$ = Reform
Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D
"The idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success." That's what President Obama promised in his State of the Union last week. Sounds great-except we've heard that one before. It's the same promise the president made last year in his first major education address-rewarding whatever works. Of course, the following day he signed the omnibus spending bill effectively killing the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which was deemed a success by his own education department and cost a fraction of what DC public schools do, $6,600 versus more than $28,000 per student.
Outspendingtheir predecessors may be a favorite past time for politicians, but funneling more money into the status-quo system isn't benefitting students or the economy. The Cato Institute's Andrew Coulson analyzes historical education spending and the achievement of 17-year-olds, who presumably should be better prepared for college and the workforce if we just spend more. Using U.S. Education Department data, here's what Coulson finds, spelled out in three terrific charts:
#1: Since 1970, federal education spending increases approach 200 percent in real, inflation- adjusted terms. Reading and math performance were essentially unchanged, while science performance dropped.
#2: Since 1970, total education spending, which includes federal, state, and local spending, increased approximately 140 percent in real, inflation- adjusted terms. Reading and math performance were essentially unchanged, while science performance dropped.
#3: Here's what did increase along with all that extra spending: school employees. In fact, the staff/student ratio increased 70 percent since 1970, roughly 4.5 million people.
So this is the "change" we're supposed to believe in?