Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Education Spending and the Failure of Educational Progress

To consider along with the posts yesterday and today, which pick up on my earlier posts about the fundamental importance of education to social justice, the online article by Steven Malanga, provocatively titled, “We Don’t Need Another War on Poverty,” is chock-full of valuable statistics. Herewith an excerpt from his discussion on education funding:

Though Obama has supported some education reforms, such as charter schools, his plan for fixing urban schools by showering more federal money on them is another attempt to revive tin-cup largesse. In his signature education speech, Obama described visiting a high school outside Chicago that “couldn’t afford to keep teachers for a full day, so school let out at 1:30 every afternoon,” adding that “stories like this can be found across America.” Later, he said: “We cannot ask our teachers to perform the impossible, to teach poorly prepared children with inadequate resources.”

In fact, the U.S. has made vast investments in its public schools. According to a study by Manhattan Institute scholar Jay Greene, per-student spending on K–12 public education in the U.S. rocketed from $2,345 in the mid-1950s to $8,745 in 2002 (both figures in 2002 dollars). Per-pupil spending in many cities is lavish. In New York, huge funding increases dating to the late 1990s have pushed per-pupil spending to $19,000; across the river in Newark, state and federal aid has boosted per-pupil expenditures to above $20,000; and Washington, D.C., now spends more than $22,000 a year per student. Yet these urban school systems have shown little or no improvement. “Schools are not inadequately funded—they would not perform substantially better if they had more money,” Greene observes. An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study found that most European countries spend between 55 percent and 70 percent of what the U.S. does per student, yet produce better educational outcomes. If some urban school systems are failing children, money has nothing to do with it.

Greg Sisk


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