We owe our friend Norm Leahy at Tertium Quids a big Hat Tip (here) for bringing this to our attention. It hit us like a hammer over the head last week while putting together the most recent News Stand, where a couple of articles coalesced to drive the point home. The first paragraph has our preliminary commentary on the subject — the relation of government education spending and (lack of) student achievement. As an April 29 article in the Wall Street Journal on a report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress confirms (here), despite trillions of dollars taxed away from private income at the local, state and federal levels since 1971, standardized test scores for 17-year-olds have improved by exactly three points: by one in English and by two in math. If a three point improvement over nearly 40 years and trillions of dollars of your money doesn't infuriate you, we could elaborate. But Andrew Coulson of The Cato Institute does it better than anyone else. As he posted at Cato's blog (here), and quoted by Leahy at TQ, it's simply a productivity collapse — twice the money for the same results:
"How serious of a collapse is it? Total k-12 expenditures in this country were about $630 billion two years ago (see Table 25, Digest of Ed Statistics 2008). The efficiency of our education system is less than half what it was in 1971 (i.e., we spend more than twice as much to get the same results — see Table 181, same source).
So if we'd managed to ensure that education productivity just stagnated, we'd be saving over $300 billion EVERY YEAR. If we'd actually seen productivity improvements in education such as we've seen in other fields, we'd be saving at least that much money and enjoying higher student achievement at the same time.
My guess is that most people would consider saving $3 trillion per decade and more fully realizing children's intellectual potential are both very important."
Prophetically, Leahy adds:
The knee-jerk response will be to throw even more money at the problem, hoping that somehow, an extra dollop of cash will change everything.
Exactly! On the heels of the report, we have this from the April 29 Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Virginia is in talks with Maryland and Washington about seeking part of an additional $5 billion in stimulus money that will be awarded to states most aggressively trying to improve student achievement.
On what basis is there proof that anything they do with that money will work? When is enough, enough? Certainly not another $5 billion, right? Solution? Reforms so often blocked by the educationists and unions, such as more charter schools, more choice, more competition. But there's no need to reform when trillions for nothing come your way.
This wasted national treasure reminds me of the refrain of naive liberals about all the money "wasted" on defense spending: "Imagine all the good that could be done with that money instead of building bombs." Never mind that the military constantly improves efficiency and protects our country.
But . . . when it comes to governments, at any level, taxing our hard-earned income and spending it on an education system that has progressed by virtually nothing, it makes us think: Imagine all the good that could have been done with that money if left in the hands of parents to find better ways to educate their children.