NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Test Scores And The Level Of Education Spending Appear Unrelated

March 10, 1999

Since Congress passed the National Defense Education Act in 1958, the federal government has spent more than $1 trillion, inflation adjusted, on schools. Today, there are 760 federal education programs run by 39 agencies -- costing about $100 billion a year. Grade schools get about $15 billion of that.

But since the 1970s, average Scholastic Achievement Test scores have fallen -- even though the test was "recentered" in 1996, pushing up scores by about 100 points.

Scores are often most wretched in areas where education spending is highest.

  • Spending $10,241 per pupil in the 1996-97 school year -- more than any other state -- New Jersey test scores ranked it 29th among the states.
  • The District of Columbia, which placed 50th in SAT scores, spent $9,123 that academic year.
  • New York came in at 31st, spending $8,564 per pupil, and Rhode Island spent $7,263 to achieve 34th place.
  • Connecticut and Alaska tied for eighth place, however, on per-pupil budgets of $8,469 and $8,253, respectively.

Along with the costs to taxpayers for public schools, U.S. companies spend about $30 billion a year to retrain entry-level workers and lose about $30 billion more because of workers' poor reading and writing abilities.

Yet the Clinton administration wants to send nearly $35 billion to the Education Department next year -- and almost $40 billion in 2001. It is also asking for $11.4 billion for 100,000 new teachers over the next six years and $600 million to help schools end "social" promotions.

Source: Michael Chapman, "Will More School Money Help?" Investor's Business Daily, March 10, 1999.


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