NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

ALEC Study: Increased Education Spending Doesn't Improve Performance

April 23, 2001

Spending more on education doesn't mean students learn more, says a new study on student achievement. The study shows no evident correlation between conventional measures of educational inputs, such as expenditures per pupil and teacher salaries, and educational outputs, such as average scores on standardized tests.

The study covers two generations of students, 1976-2000, and grades each state using over a hundred measures of educational resources and achievement.

Among the findings:

  • While expenditures per pupil have increased nationwide by 22.8 percent in constant dollars over the past twenty years-- from $5,087 in 1979 to $6,251 in 1999 -- standardized test scores have remained relatively stagnant.
  • Maine (+81.7 percent) followed closely by Connecticut (+80.4 percent) and West Virginia (+61.0 percent) led the nation in increased spending since 1978.
  • However, Iowa, followed closely by Minnesota and Wisconsin, had the top performing public elementary and secondary schools in the nation, as measured by several standardized tests, but ranked 32nd, 14th and 9th, respectively, in per pupil expenditures.
  • Mississippi, the District of Columbia, and Louisiana ranked at the bottom of the scale on student achievement, but ranked 50th, 5th and 39th in per pupil spending.

Additionally, Missouri, Illinois, and Alabama have experienced significant increases in average SAT scores since 1980. Yet, none of these three states made an "improvement" in measured educational inputs significant enough to place it in the top ten nationwide.

Source: Andrew T. LeFevre and Rea S. Hederman, Jr., "Report Card on American Education: A State-By-State Analysis 1976-2000," April 2001, American Legislative Exchange Council, 910 17th Street, N.W., Fifth Floor, Washington, D.C. 20006, (202)466-3800.


Browse more articles on Education Issues