THE BLOG
09/17/2012 11:26 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2012

Decades of Increased State Spending on Public Education Yield Scant Results

Despite pumping billions of dollars into public schools for more than 40 years, the most recent data show a public education system that cannot turn money alone into positive results.

Even after a decade of "No Child Left Behind" initiatives and a recent surge of more than $80 billion in federal stimulus since 2009 intended to lift student performance quickly, there is no significant gain.

A study by State Budget Solutions comparing state spending on education, standardized test scores and graduation rates shows both performance measures prove there was little aggregate cumulative improvement in America's public school system when it comes to teaching our young.

The study, "Throwing Money at Education Isn't Working," was conducted on data from all 50 states by SBS analyst Kristen De Peña as part of an ongoing state and municipal fiscal crisis project by Sunshine Review.

The conclusions are undeniable. Suggested solutions are difficult, but achievable.

National Governors Association Graduation Counts Compact on State High School Graduation

Data was only up from 73.4 percent in 2009 to 74.7 percent in 2011, the latest data available.

Worse yet, American College Testing scores did not move adequately compared to the financial investment taxpayers are funding.

Remember, public education experts have said for decades that the solution to America's dysfunctional public education system requires two vital ingredients: money and time. They have had more than enough of both.

Taxpayers heard again and again that if we just "invested" more money in the system, eventually it would improve. It has not improved.

It also shows absence of correlation between spending and success when comparing results from individual states.

States that spend the most certainly do not get the best results, at least as far as these two national standardized measures of performance show, and there is even variance within states between the two measures.

These are the national standards public education experts themselves agreed to use in consistently measuring performance.

The only consistent correlation is between how open and accessible school finances are with a focus on student educational outcomes and higher scores and graduation rates.

While results from individual states vary, the overall conclusion is inescapable: Solving America's public education crisis requires more than just money that will be increasingly difficult for schools to grab as federal funding declines and states face rising locked-in expenses that produce no services.

That makes it more essential than ever that every dollar taxpayers invest in education produces positive results.

The study suggests that:
· States and localities take more authority and responsibility in allocating funds and measuring educational outcome results;

· Increase state and district fiscal transparency;

· Implement a Government Accountability Office recommendation that the Department of Education create a common system to track and manage potential misuse of federal funds;

· Require detailed financial accountability of all federal grants or any extraordinary education stimulus funds;

· Eliminate one-size-fits-all testing to reward and punish schools;

· Adapt most effective aspects of charter school operations and practices.

As the study concludes, "... higher levels of funding do not ensure higher graduation rates, nor do they directly correlate to higher test scores on the ACT. Improving education requires multifaceted efforts, not solely increased funding."


Bob Williams, President of State Budget Solutions, is a former Washington state legislator, gubernatorial candidate and auditor with the Government Accountability Office.