NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 20, 2010

As we close out this school year, taxpayers may wonder what kind of bang we're getting for our educational buck, asks Michael Quinn Sullivan, President and CEO of Empower Texans. 

  • Texans now spend more than $11,000 per year, per student on public education -- with less than half going toward instructional expenses.
  • In the 2008-2009 school year -- the last for which data is available -- Texas schools spent $11,084 per kid; 10 years ago, Texas spent just $5,857 per pupil.
  • If per pupil spending had risen with inflation, the cost after 10 years would have approximately been $7,545.  

So where is the money going?  Well, it's not going to the classroom, says Sullivan: 

  • If you think of each kid the way school bureaucrats do -- as bags of money -- and consider your average third-grade class capped at 22 students per teacher, that's $243,848 sitting there.
  • But the money isn't going to the teacher; average teacher pay was $47,313 in the 2008-2009 school year (up from $34,357 a decade ago). 

So where's the other $200,000 derived from our average classroom going, asks Sullivan: 

  • Of the $11,084 spent per pupil on public education in 2009, only $4,831 went for anything that could even remotely be considered "instructional" expenses as defined by the Texas Education Agency.
  • Over the last decade, student enrollment has risen 15 percent -- from 3.9 million students to 4.6 million students.
  • In that same period, the number of teachers grew accordingly, at 19.3 percent.
  • We now have 14.4 students for every teacher (in 1999 it was 15.2 students per teacher). 

But non-teachers?  That's where the growth is.  We had 22 percent more in 2009 than in 1999, says Sullivan. 

So for all this spending, and for all these new, non-classroom employees, surely there's been some marked improvement in academic performance.  Actually, there's been a decline in results, says Sullivan: 

  • The average Texas SAT score in 1999 was a 992.
  • Over 10 years it has fallen to 988.  

Source: Michael Quinn Sullivan, "Texas School Spending Tops $11k Per Pupil," Empower Texans, May 19, 2010.


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