Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working

A new study titled Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working by State Budget Solutions found that, “Higher levels of funding do not ensure higher graduation rates, nor does it directly correlate to higher test scores on the ACT.” Florida’s numbers show that spending more on education has not moved the needle on student ACT scores or reduced the state’s drop out rate.

State Budget Solutions examined national trends in education from 2009-2011, including a state-by-state analysis of education spending as a percentage of total state spending, and a comparison of average graduation rates and average ACT scores per state. The study shows that states that spend the most do not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor do they have the highest average graduation rates.

Florida is no exception to this rule. State Budget Solutions reports, “None of the states spending the least on education (as a percentage) had the lowest average graduation rates. The same is true for ACT scores. An outlier to this general trend was Florida. In 2009, Florida spent less on education than 46 other states. In fact, Florida spent five percentage points less than the national average on education. Florida also underperformed in ACT scores, ranking third for the states with the lowest average ACT scores, but did not similarly underperform based on average graduation rates.”

Here are the Florida specific numbers provided in the study:

Percent of Florida’s Total Spending on Education:

2009 – 25%
2010 – 24.8% (NOTE: In 2010 Florida received an additional $700 million in federal RTTT funding)
2011 – 25.2%
2012 – 25.6%

Average ACT Composite Score for Florida:

2008-09 – 19.5
2009-10 – 19.5
2010-11 – 19.6

Florida Education Spending & Student Performance Data:

2009-10 Per Pupil Funding $400
2009 Drop Out Rate/NCES Drop Out Rate 76.3%/63.6%
2010 Drop Out Rate/NCES Drop Out Rate 79.0%/65.0%
2011 Drop Out Rate/NCES Drop Out Rate 80.1%/66.9%

NCES: National Center for Education Statistics

According to the study, “Each year, the United State spends billions of dollars on education. In 2010, total annual spending on education exceeded $809 billion dollars. Although it is unclear whether that figure is adjusted for inflation, that amount is higher than any other industrialized nation, and more than the spending of France, Germany, Japan, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia combined. From 1970 to 2012, total average per pupil expenditures in the U.S. has more than doubled.”

“Despite higher levels of funding, student test scores are substantially lower in the United States than in many other nations. American students scored an average of 474 on a 600-point scale, performing only slightly better in science, with an average score of 489. By comparison, Canadian students scored an average of 527 and 534 on the same tests, and Finnish students scored 548 and 563, respectively,” notes the State Budget Committee study.

A conclusion of the study is, “As a result of centralization, states have less authority to develop state-specific metrics to accurately measure education initiatives. Localized control results in more narrowly tailored metrics and a better understanding of failure and success based on those metrics. Oversight at a local level is more practical and more effective than federal oversight.”

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