The State of K-12 Government-School Funding

by Don Boudreaux on July 17, 2011

in Education, Myths and Fallacies

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

Writing ominously that “All across America, school budgets are being cut, teachers laid off and education programs dismantled,” Nicholas Kristof accuses us Americans of recklessly endangering our future (“Our Broken Escalator,” July 17).

Context calms these fears.

While Mr. Kristof is correct that “70 percent of school districts nationwide endured budget cuts in the school year that just ended, and 84 percent anticipate cuts this year,” a quick web check reveals that these cuts average no more than about five percent from the previous year.  Further, these cuts overwhelmingly reflect simply the completion of the distribution of the $100 billion in federal ‘stimulus’ funds shoveled from Washington to state school systems in 2009-2010.

More broadly, data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics show that inflation-adjusted per-pupil expenditures for K-12 public schools have steadily and dramatically increased over the past half-century.  In 2007-08 (just before the recession and the ‘stimuli’) real per-pupil funding was 19 percent higher than in 1999-2000, 33 percent higher than in 1990-91, 83 percent higher than in 1980-81, 129 percent higher than in 1970-71, and 272 percent higher than in 1961-62.

Mr. Kristof’s portrayal of the funding of K-12 schooling in America is recklessly uninformed.

Donald J. Boudreaux


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