Tag Archives: Teacher Unions

Has increased education spending in schools improved student performance in test scores?

When I want a raise, I work harder, but these teachers hold up signs
When I want a raise, I work harder, but lazy teachers quit working to hold signs

One of my friends has been having a debate with one of his former teachers about whether spending more money on government-run education improves tests scores. He tried posting some evidence, but she just dismissed that by claiming:

  1. If we hadn’t spent more money, then the student test scores would have gone down instead of staying the same.
  2. Most of the money that government spends on education goes to vouchers and private schools, not public schools
  3. Economists at prestigious think tanks like that Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute cannot be trusted to accurately cite the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics because of the Koch Brothers
  4. You can’t compare the test scores of American students with the test scores of Asian students who outperform them, (for less government spending), because math is different in Asia compared to America

Let’s look at some data and see if her arguments are correct.

Does more spending mean higher student performance?

National Review reported on data collected in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which spans all 50 states.

Look:

Comparing educational achievement with per-pupil spending among states also calls into question the value of increasing expenditures. While high-spending Massachusetts had the nation’s highest proficiency scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, low-spending Idaho did very well, too. South Dakota ranks 42nd in per-pupil expenditures but eighth in math performance and ninth in reading. The District of Columbia, meanwhile, with the nation’s highest per-pupil expenditures ($15,511 in 2007), scores dead last in achievement.

The student test scores are dead last, but National Review notes that “according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, D.C. was spending an average of $27,460 per pupil in 2014, the most recent year for which data are available.” They are spending the most per-pupil, but their test scores are dead last.

CBS News reported on another recent study confirming this:

Decades of increased taxpayer spending per student in U.S. public schools has not improved student or school outcomes from that education, and a new study finds that throwing money at the system is simply not tied to academic improvements.

The study from the CATO Institute shows that American student performance has remained poor, and has actually declined in mathematics and verbal skills, despite per-student spending tripling nationwide over the same 40-year period.

“The takeaway from this study is that what we’ve done over the past 40 years hasn’t worked,” Andrew Coulson, director of the Center For Educational Freedom at the CATO Institute, told Watchdog.org. “The average performance change nationwide has declined 3 percent in mathematical and verbal skills. Moreover, there’s been no relationship, effectively, between spending and academic outcomes.”

The study, “State Education Trends: Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years,” analyzed how billions of increased taxpayer dollars, combined with the number of school employees nearly doubling since 1970, to produce stagnant or declining academic results.

“The performance of 17-year-olds has been essentially stagnant across all subjects despite a near tripling of the inflation-adjusted cost of putting a child through the K-12 system,” writes Coulson.

Where did the numbers come from? The Koch Brothers? No:

Data from the U.S. Department of Education incorporating public school costs, number of employees, student enrollment and SAT scores was analyzed to explore the disparity between increased spending and decreasing or stagnant academic results.

Well, at least government-run monopoly schools outperform private private schools, right? No:

[…][P]rivate schools, where students excel over public school peers, …manage to operate at budgets about 34 percent lower than taxpayer-funded schools, US Finance Post reports.

Public schools spend, on average, $11,000 per student, per year.

Coulson noted an Arizona study he conducted which showed that the average per-pupil spending at private schools was only about 66 percent of the cost of public schools.

A more recent state-specific study from 2016 found that this is still the case.

This problem gets even worse when you look at test scores from other countries, where even less is spent on education.

As the Washington Post reported at the end of 2016:

When it comes to math, U.S. high school students are falling further behind their international counterparts, according to results released Tuesday of an ongoing study that compares academic achievement in 73 countries. And the news is not much better in reading and science literacy, where U.S. high schoolers have not gained any ground and continue to trail students in a slew of developed countries around the globe.

In the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) measuring math literacy in 2015, U.S. students ranked 40th in the world. The U.S. average math score of 470 represents the second decline in the past two assessments — down from 482 in 2012 and 488 in 2009. The U.S. score in 2015 was 23 points lower than the average of all of the nations taking part in the survey.

More money is being spent, but the scores are DECREASING.

Now, why is it that increased government spending in the public school monopoly doesn’t improve student performance? Well, one reason is that very little of the money makes it to the classroom.

Where does all the money go?

Let’s look at four places where the money spent on the government-run public school monopoly ends up.

Administration

First, a lot of it gets paid to administrations who implement politically correct programs designed to turn the impressionable young people into little secular socialists.

Here’s a helpful chart from the American Enterprise Institute:

Where does taxpayer money spent on the public school monopoly go?
Where does taxpayer money spent on the public school monopoly go?

I guess if a school wants to make things like Planned Parenthood sex education and LGBT indoctrination into priorities, then they would need more administrators.

Pensions

Second, education employees get enormous pensions, which are paid by taxpayers and negotiated by their unions. You would never see pensions this large in the private sector.

This is from the leftist Brookings Institute, from 2014:

This figure shows we now spend nearly $1,100 per student on retirement benefits. The average public school student teacher ratio is 16 to 1. So we are spending about $17,000 per year per teacher in pension contributions.

[…]The National Council on Teacher Quality writes,

In 2014 teacher pension systems had a total of a half trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities—a debt load that climbed more than $100 billion in just the last two years. Across the states, an average of 70 cents of every dollar contributed to state teacher pension systems goes toward paying off the ever-increasing pension debt, not to future teacher benefits (p. iii).

While we are spending a huge amount to fund teacher pensions, most of that spending doesn’t go to attracting the best teachers. It’s paying off past debts.

We can’t hire good teachers, because all the education spending of today is paying for the gold-plated pensions of yesterday.

That was 2014. The numbers are even worse today. Teachers contribute very, very little to their pensions, but the benefits are enormous compared to what the private sector taxpayers get in Social Security. (Which is going to be bankrupt by 2034, as reported by the far-left PBS)

Teacher training

Third, a lot of it is spent on teacher training, because apparently teaching multiplication, Shakespeare or geography changes every year, so the teachers need tens of thousands of dollars in annual training.

The Washington Post reports on a recent study:

A new study of 10,000 teachers found that professional development — the teacher workshops and training that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year — is largely a waste.

The study released Tuesday by TNTP, a nonprofit organization, found no evidence that any particular approach or amount of professional development consistently helps teachers improve in the classroom.

[…]The school districts that participated in the study spent an average of $18,000 per teacher annually on professional development. Based on that figure, TNTP estimates that the 50 largest school districts spend an estimated $8 billion on teacher development annually. That is far larger than previous estimates.

And teachers spend a good deal of time in training, the study found. The 10,000 teachers surveyed were in training an average of 19 school days a year, or almost 10 percent of a typical school year, according to TNTP.

Maybe if more of the money spent on education were spent directly on hiring teachers, then we would see an improvement. Unfortunately, a lot of the money meant for teachers goes to the teacher unions. How do they spend that money?

Political Contributions

Finally, this is from OpenSecrets.org, concerning political contributions made in the most recent election cycle:

Top Political Contributors in 2016 election cycle
Top Political Contributors in 2016 election cycle

The two largest teacher unions came in at #9 and #11. Most of their donations go to Democrat Party. Democrats believe (against the evidence) that spending more money in the government-run public school monopoly will improve student performance on tests.

So, what’s the solution?

The solution is that we abolish the federal Department of Education, which has done nothing to improve the quality of education for students. We need to push the education of children back down to the state and local levels. We need to empower parents to choose the schools that work best for their children by giving parents vouchers. We need to increase tax-free education savings accounts to help parents with school expenses. We should also give free college tuition to homeschooled students who are admitted to STEM programs at any college or university. We can take the money from the pensions of the union administrators, after we abolish ever single public sector teacher union in the country, and seize all their assets and pensions. If that’s not enough money, then we can seize all the pensions of Department of Education employees – a just punishment for their failure to produce results while still taking taxpayer money.

Finally, we should allow people who already have private sector experience doing things like STEM to become teachers. Let’s face it: the departments that grant Education degrees have the lowest entrance requirements, and produce the least competent adults. People with years of private sector work experience teach better than people with Education degrees. Let’s open up teaching to people who have experience in the private sector doing software engineering, statistics, nursing, etc. and then we’ll have qualified teachers.

Education Secretary Betsy Devos scores a victory against public sector union

Secretary of Education Betsy Devos
Secretary of Education Betsy Devos

Although you would never know it from the mainstream news media, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos is doing her best to advance a taxpayer-friendly agenda in education policy.

Here’s the latest from the American Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank:

In a noteworthy development, DeVos’s team this month radically revamped the collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) that governs the 3,900 employees at the U.S. Department of Education. The new CBA, between the Department and Council 252 of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), includes big changes from the 2013 agreement negotiated under the Obama administration.

The new agreement doesn’t address compensation or benefits, of course, since those are governed by federal law, but it does include a raft of sensible, taxpayer-friendly changes.

The new CBA eliminates the set-aside of “official time” for union business. Under the old agreement, designated union representatives were free to work on union business during normal, government hours — all on the taxpayers’ dime. The old CBA stipulated that “no fewer than 75” (!) union stewards across the country could work up to 40 hours a year on “official time,” while another three union officers would devote 100 percent of their time to union business. Henceforth, union business will be done on union time, rather than on the taxpayers’.

Under the old agreement, department employees were given only a solitary 48-hour window each year in which they could opt out of union membership; miss that, and they were automatically enrolled. Henceforth, employees who wish to be in the union each year will be free to do so, and they will have an extended period in which to enroll — but they will have to actively choose to join.

The revamped accord also removes the requirements for “pre-decisional consultation.” Under the previous CBA, the department was required to consult the union before every agency-wide decision that could be construed as affecting the work of employees (such as transferring employees from one office to another, or even shifting employees from one project to another within the same office). Now, the department needs only notify the union of such decisions.

Under the new CBA, the union will be charged “fair-market rent” for the use of government office space and federally furnished equipment to conduct union business. Under the Obama-era accord, taxpayers were required to provide space and equipment to the union free of charge.

More generally, the new agreement removes a number of provisions that added burdensome procedural directives above and beyond statutory requirements when it came to things such as telework and grievance procedures.

If there is one thing I expected from Betsy Devos, it’s taxpayer-friendly education policy.

Unfortunately, the Republican party didn’t help her very much in that massive $1.3 Billion spending bill that they passed, with Democrat support. Betsy wants to cut federal spending on education, and return control of education policy to the states and municipalities. But the GOP just gave the Department of Education a bigger budget. We really need to switch out some of these big government Republicans for authentic conservatives.

Do government-run public schools succeed at educating children?

CNS News compares per-pupil costs to the taxpayer to student proficiency levels in a variety of Democrat-dominated cities.

Excerpt:

In Philadelphia, where the Democratic Party held its national convention, the public schools spent a total of $18,241 per student in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

In Detroit… the public schools spent a total of $18,361 per student that year.

In Washington, D.C., where the federal government makes its home, it was $23,980.

What did these schools produce while spending more than $18,000 per student? Not well-educated children.

In the Philadelphia public schools in 2015, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress scores published by the Department of Education, 80 percent of eighth graders were not grade-level proficient in math. Eighty-four percent were not grade-level proficient in reading.

In the Detroit public schools, 96 percent of eighth graders were not grade-level proficient in math. Ninety-three percent were not grade-level proficient in reading.

In the District of Columbia public schools, 83 percent of the eighth graders were not grade-level proficient in math. Eighty-one percent were not grade-level proficient in reading.

If you pay federal taxes — no matter where you live and no matter where you send your children to school — you help subsidize the public schools in Philadelphia, Detroit and Washington, D.C.

In fact, if you pay federal taxes you help subsidize the public schools all across America.

What I have noticed about American education is that whenever anything is said about the poor performance of the government-run public schools, the teacher unions and school administrators all cry that the problem is not enough money.

But as you can see, we have been spending more and more money on these schools, but not getting any return on the investment:

Education spending has tripled since 1970
Education spending has tripled since 1970

Where is all that money going? A lot of it is donated to Democrats:

Political contributions by the American Federation of Teachers union
Political contributions by the American Federation of Teachers union

(Source)

The Democrats repay the teacher unions by protecting them from competition from private schools and homeschoolers. Democrats shut down every attempt by Republicans to reform public school education to make it more responsive to parents.

In the free market, there is no protection for businesses that fail to perform. They have to shape up or shut down. Maybe instead of shoveling taxpayer money into a bottomless pit, we should give money for each child’s education directly to the parents, and let theparents choose schools that actually focus on the job of educating the children in valuable skills?

The CNS News article continues:

The cost and the poor performance of public schools in the United States should inspire Congress to do two things: Shut down the federal Department of Education and enact legislation creating complete school choice for families that reside in the District of Columbia.

Voters in states and local communities elsewhere in the country can then decide for themselves whether or not to replace the relatively small percentage of local school revenue that now comes from the federal government.

But the right decision would be for states and local communities to stop giving their education money exclusively to government-run schools.

Instead, they should give that money to parents — and let parents decide where to send their children to school.

Communities should grant every child in their jurisdiction a voucher worth the same amount of money currently spent per pupil in the local government schools. Then they should let families decide whether they want to send their children to one of those government schools or to a private school.

Attaching the money to the child makes the parents the consumer, and empowers them to buy the right school – the school that does the job that they want the school to do. Instead of focusing on global warming, gay rights, transgender bathrooms and putting condoms on cucumbers, the schools should be focused on math, engineering, technology and science. STEM is where the money is – not in liberal crybaby indoctrination.

Michigan public schools to let students choose gender, name and bathroom

National Education Association
National Education Association

Do you think that the decision described in this Daily Caller article was made by parents or local school boards? (H/T Kris)

Excerpt:

Michigan’s State Board of Education has drafted a guidance that would push the state’s schools to allow all students, regardless of parental or doctoral input, to choose their gender, name, pronouns, and bathrooms.

Spearheaded by board president John C. Austin and signed by state superintendent Brian Whiston, the guidance informs Michigan public schools that only the students themselves–i.e. not their parents or doctors–can determine what their individual gender identities are.

“The responsibility for determining a student’s gender identity rests with the student. Outside confirmation from medical or mental health professionals, or documentation of legal changes, is not needed,” the guidance states.

Gender identity is defined in the guidance as “a person’s deeply held internal sense or psychological knowledge of their own gender, regardless of the biological sex they were assigned at birth.”

Notably, the guidance makes no mention of a student’s age affecting whether or not they can pick a gender without their parent or doctor.

In fact, the guidance seems to intentionally cut parents out of the process.

The guidance states: “School staff should address students by their chosen name and pronouns that correspond to their gender identity, regardless of whether there has been a legal name change.”

Students can even ask to have their chosen name and gender “included in the district’s information management systems, in addition to the student’s legal name.”

But what about when school staff members are speaking with parents about their son or daughter?

The guidance states that “Transgender and GNC [gender nonconforming] students have the right to decide when, with whom, and to what extent to share private information.”

Accordingly, the board makes clear, “When contacting the parent/guardian of a transgender or GNC student, school staff should use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s assigned sex at birth, unless the student or parent/guardian has specified otherwise.”

In other words, a boy named “Jake” could become a girl named “Jane” at school, seemingly without his parents ever knowing.

Names, pronouns, and genders aren’t the only things the board wants students to choose.

The guidance informs schools that “Students should be allowed to use the restroom in accordance with their gender identity.”

[…]Locker rooms also should become inclusive of students’ many gender identities. “A student should not be required to use a locker room that is incongruent with their gender identity,” the guidance states. “Locker room usage should be determined on a case-by-case basis, using the guiding principles of safety and honoring the student’s gender identity and expression.”

[…]The board quietly issued the statement and guidance on February 23rd, without a press release.

[…]Board president John Austin did not immediately reply to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

Previously, I wrote a post explaining why young Christians who are considering getting married and having children need to prepare themselves to bypass the public school sytem. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Christian parents cannot look to the public schools as allies in parenting their children in a way that respects the Christian convictions of the parents. The public schools are not allies.

Since Christian parents are forced to pay for public schools whether they use them or not, Christian parents should be voting for the political party that seeks to lower taxes, shrink government, and push control of education down to the state and local levels. Christian parents should also support politicians who are in favor of school choice – giving parents vouchers that allow parents to use the money for private schools or homeschooling options.

We need to get a lot smarter and vote for smaller government, local control of education and accountability to parents. The public schools are basically controlled by the sexual revolutionaries, e.g. – abortion providers, gay activists, etc. And that’s not even to mention the socialists, the global warming alarmists, the moral relativists, etc. If your goal for your children is to teach them marketable skills and basic moral values, then you need to get as far away from the public schools as possible. Including mandatory funding of them.

By the way, I should note that among his many other excellent qualifications, Ted Cruz also plans to abolish the federal Department of Education and push control of education down to the state and local levels. That would be a good start. He also plans to abolish four more federal departments, and push control down to the state and local level there, as well.

Related posts

Public schools received more money, but produced lower student test scores

Now, we’ve already seen the dangers of Democrats like Hillary Clinton refusing to do her job at the State Deparment. During her term, she focused on promoting abortion abroad and on promoting LGBT rights, and neglected religious liberty and national security, i.e. – Benghazi and her insecure e-mail server. But what happens when Democrats in the education system focus on pushing a Democrat agenda, and neglect the task of teaching children the basic skills they will need to get jobs?

This article is from Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

For the first time in many years, national math and reading test scores have dropped for elementary-school kids. Who’s to blame? The better question is, who isn’t?

The biennial tests conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress measure reading and math comprehension among a sample of thousands of fourth- and eighth-graders.

Math scores dropped two points among fourth-graders and three points among those in the eighth grade. Fourth-grade reading scores were up a point, but reading scores in eighth grade dropped three.

Even the growth over the past two decades is unimpressive. The NAEP tests show that two-thirds of eighth-graders are less than proficient in math, and almost as many are below in reading. And proficiency levels in both subjects drop between fourth and eighth grades.

Educrats have offered lots of excuses for this year’s decline, but little explanation. It was the recession. It involved budget cuts. It’s a mystery.

But what the results show pretty clearly is that constant federal meddling and vast amounts of money have, if anything, impeded education progress, not spurred it on.

Per-pupil spending on elementary and secondary education has more than doubled since 1992, while math and reading scores eked out gains of less than 5%, on average.

Moreover, an endless series of Washington-based education changes have done little except cause disruption. In fact, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is now saying President Obama’s Race to the Top and Common Core measures are to blame for the sag in scores because the “improvements” are so sweeping. “Big change,” he said, “never happens overnight.”

Actually, when it comes to our centralized, bloated, bureaucratic, union-dominated public schools, big change never happens, period.

Spending on education has gone up a lot in the past decades, but test scores haven’t budged:

Cato Institute graphs education spending against test scores
Cato Institute graphs education spending against test scores

Although test scores are not going up, the teacher unions are donating millions of dollars to the Democrats so that there is no accountability:

Don't expect Democrats to put children's education needs over teacher unions
Don’t expect Democrats to put children’s education needs over teacher unions

(Source: OpenSecrets.org)

But there is some hope… when politicians embrace school choice, parents get to pull their kids out of failing schools and put them into customer-focused schools. Check out Bobby Jindal’s answer to a question about rising tuition costs in last night’s first CNBC debate:

Republicans should care about the education issue… because Democrats surely do not.