NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 30, 2006

Increasing per pupil spending by another 111 percent will not fix public schools, says Terrence P. Jeffrey on

According to its National Center for Education Statistics (NCES):

  • Between the 1970 and 2002 school years, average per-pupil spending in public elementary and secondary schools rose 111 percent, from $4,170 (in constant 2001-2002 dollars) to $8,802.
  • From just 1990 to 2003, average per-pupil spending increased 25 percent, from $7,692 (in constant 2003-2004 dollars) to $9,644.

But this big run-up in spending did not cause a big run-up in student performance, says Jefferey:

  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests showed reading scores for eighth-grade public school students remained essentially static between 1998 and 2005; only 29 percent were rated grade-level "proficient" or better.
  • Math results did improve slightly between 1990 and 2005, but again, only 29 percent were rated grade-level proficient or better.
  • In other words, in both reading and math, 71 percent of students rated less than proficient.

However, there was one area of improvement, says Jeffrey: private schools.  The 2005 NAEP tests rated students in Catholic and Lutheran schools and found:

  • Some 49 percent of eighth-graders in both Catholic and Lutheran schools rated "proficient" or better in reading.
  • While 44 percent of eighth-graders in Lutheran schools and 40 percent in Catholic schools rated "proficient" or better in math.

Source: Terrence P. Jeffrey, "Bad apples and public schools,", November 29, 2006.


Browse more articles on Education Issues