May 28, 2014


New Strategy for Student Achievement: Spend Less (Christopher Flavelle, 5/28/14, Bloomberg View)

Take Wisconsin, where Republican Governor Scott Walker took office in January 2011 vowing to cut taxes and spending. That year the state spent $11,774 per public school student. (Charter schools are mostly excluded from the data.)

Walker has since made good on his promise. In 2012, per-pupil spending fell 6.2 percent, to $11,042 -- the largest drop in the country -- moving the state from 18th to 22nd in the nation by that measure. After adjusting for inflation, Wisconsin spent less per pupil in 2012 than at any point during the previous decade. [...]

A recent report from the CATO Institute found that the funding increases over the past 40 years haven't led to an increase in verbal or math skills, and that states that lowered their funding saw no decline in test scores.

That research is partially borne out by Wisconsin's limited experience so far with reduced funding. On nationwide standardized tests given to fourth- and eighth-graders in math and reading in 2013, Wisconsin was one of the states that failed to show improvements over its 2011 test results in any category. But its scores didn't fall either.

Moreover, while the marginal benefit of an extra dollar spent on education is hard to quantify, an extra dollar in tax cuts is tangible, clear and satisfying. You don't have to be Ayn Rand to acknowledge that the purpose of government isn't to spend money; it's to spend money to further a meaningful objective. If the status quo doesn't work, we could at least stop paying so much for it.

Posted by at May 28, 2014 5:50 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus