Monday, June 14, 2010

Two great graphs on public education

When talking about problems, especially complex problems, it always helps to have data. In The U.S. Economy Needs Fewer Public School Jobs, Not More, Andrew J. Coulson has this shocking report:

"Over the past forty years, public school employment has risen 10 times faster than enrollment (see chart). There are only 9 percent more students today, but nearly twice as many public school employees. To prove that rolling back this relentless hiring spree by a few years would hurt student achievement, you’d have to show that all those new employees raised achievement in the first place. That would be hard to do… because it never happened."

Here's his first graph:



Mr. Coulson continues with:

"Student achievement at the end of high school has been flat for as long as we’ve been keeping track—all the way back to 1970. But we did get something in return for all that hiring: a great, big, fat, BILL.
If you graduated from high school in 1980, your entire k-12 education cost your fellow taxpayers about $75,000, in 2009 dollars. But the graduating class of 2009 had roughly twice that amount lavished on their public school careers. The extra $75,000 we’re now spending has done wonders for public school employee union membership, dues revenue, and political clout. It’s done a whole lotta nothin’ for student learning (see chart).
"

And here is his second chart:




These two graphs should convince any reasonable person that more money for government schools is not the answer. In fact you could even argue that more money may be contributing to the problem.

I asked Mr. Coulson if I could include his two graphs. He wrote:

"Thanks for writing. Please feel free to reproduce the graphs--I think it's important for as many people as possible to see them."

(Hat tip: AngryVillagers.net)


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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Using your logic, if you cut out all the teachers, then scores would be better. I don't think so.

Henry Cate said...

The main points of my post is: More money has not improved education.


Unrelated to this post, but I do believe that if we could cut out the bottom 10% of the teachers government schools would get better.

Henry Cate said...

Oh, Anonymous, it seems like your post is a classic straw man.

From Wikipedia:

"A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To 'attack a straw man' is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar yet weaker proposition (the 'straw man'), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position."

No where in my post do I suggest cutting all teachers. I don't even suggest cutting a single teacher in this post.

The intent for sharing this data is that when someone argues for more money for public schools, I want people to be armed with facts when they push back.

Luke said...

And the really sad part about all of this is that I know teachers who are being forced to take a 60% pay cut to keep their jobs. So all this money is just bleeding into a system and not going to students or teachers.

~Luke

Matthew said...

I stumbled across your post and read his original document. Is there any data on how much of that money is being spent on updated technology, building new schools, or supplying books. I believe the over spending is not union or bureaucratic greed, but parents of students who want all types of new services for their child

Henry Cate said...

Matthew - I haven't seen a reference on the breakdown for where the money goes. It would be fascinating to see a pie chart showing teachers' salaries, textbooks, costs for buildings and so on.