The DeHavilland Blog

Monday, May 15, 2006

Report: Counting the Cash for K-12

Excellent report here on education spending titled "Counting the Cash for K-12: The Facts About Per-Pupil Spending in Colorado," published by the Independence Institute. While the report is focused on education spending in Colorado, they use national data in several instances for comparative purposes, and the information they provide is relevant to people across the country with an interest in K12 spending.

Their primary conclusion is that we should look less at how much we spend per student and more at how we’re spending, since school budgets and per-pupil spending do not correlate with achievement. What’s more, people can manipulate or reframe spending figures to make them look better or worse depending on their purposes – a trick that can confuse the entire discussion.

Some particularly interesting pullouts:

  • An analysis by a professor at Stanford found that only 27 of 163 studies showed a positive relationship between per-pupil spending and student performance. Two-thirds of those studies showed insignificant correlations, and the rest actually showed a negative relationship.
  • According to data from NCES, there is no significant relationship between per-pupil spending and NAEP scores, nor is there a correlation between an increase in spending and a change in NAEP scores over a 10 year period.
  • In the 2004-05 school year, ten states claimed to be 49th in education funding: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Utah. This is only possible through various interest groups filtering spending data and presenting it in a way that supports their objectives. (In Colorado’s case, comparisons were made in terms of student spending as a percentage of personal income – because of Colorado’s fairly affluent population, per-pupil expenditures looked unreasonably low. In real dollars, spending on students in Colorado is ranked 31st in the country according to NCES data.)

Well worth reading the entire report to learn more about real spending, manipulation of numbers for political purposes, and the lack of correlation between spending numbers and student achievement.

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