A pdf of “The Impact of Federal Involvement in America’s Classrooms” which was delivered February 10, 2011 by Andrew J. Coulson to the Committee on Education & the Workforce United States House of Representatives is available in full Here.  It is only six pages and an easy read, but we thought we would grab your interest with these eye popping charts…

Figure 2.  Inflation-Adjusted Federal K-12 Spending Per Pupil and Achievement of 17-Year-Olds, % Change since 1970

Math and Reading scores at the end of high school are unchanged over the past forty years, while Science scores suffered a slight decline through the year 1999, the last time that test was administered. Data from another nationally representative test series show a continuing decline in 12th grade Science between 1996 and 2005, the last year for which we have trend data.

Presented with stagnant or declining performance in the face of a meteoric rise in federal spending per pupil, it is reasonable to ask: what happened to total spending? If state and local expenditures fell to such an extent that they offset federal increases, that might explain the profound disconnect revealed in Figure 2.

To answer that question, I present Figure 3, showing how the total cost of an entire k-through-12 public school education has changed over time.

Figure 3.  Inflation-Adjusted Cost of a complete K-12 Public Education, and Percent Change in Achievement of 17-Year-Olds, since 1970

We spent over $151,000 per student sending the graduating class of 2009 through public schools.  That is nearly three times as much as we spent on the graduating class of 1970, adjusting for inflation. Despite that massive real spending increase, overall achievement has stagnated or declined, depending on the subject.


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