A new study from State Budget Solutions finds that the approach that many have long considered a panacea to academic ills – more spending and increased financial resources – doesn’t actually translate to improvements in student achievement as measured by standardized test scores.
Analysis of spending by the states between the years of 2009 and 2011 showed that states that spend the most on education as a portion of their total budget didn’t graduate students at a higher rate, nor did their students score better on the ACT than their peers.
Bob Williams, President of the SBS, said that the United States spent more than $800 billion on education during 2010, which exceeds the totals spend by several European and North American countries combined. In return for that expenditure the country isn’t seeing the results demanded by both the taxpayers and parents, which is a certain indication that raising spending without a clear understanding about how to spend most effectively won’t solve America’s academic woes.
State Budget Solutions researchers analyzed the national trends in education from 2009 to 2011 by conducting 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 focused on the percentage of total spending that each state allocates towards education. Education spending includes the funding that state and local governments generate, as well as additional federal contributions.
Although the overall spending on education as part of the total budget fell by .7% — from 30% to 29.3% — the top three educational spenders, Texas, Vermont and Arkansas, each spent 4% more than the national average on various education initiatives. The states that rounded out the bottom five were Alaska, New York, Hawaii, Tennessee and Massachusetts.
For states that spent the most, only Vermont saw significant results from 2009 to 2011. In fact, four out of the five states spending the most on education failed to produce correspondingly high graduation rates or ACT scores. Arkansas remained in the top five states in spending for all three years, yet Arkansas’ average ACT scores consistently fell below the national average, and continue to decline annually. In 2010 and 2011, Texas ranked first in the nation in spending, 36.9 percent each year, but fell below the national average in graduation and ACT scores.
States that have spent the least didn’t show any performance degradation over the years studied. Although 45 states allocated a higher percentage of their budget for education compared to Massachusetts, the state topped the academic performance tables in almost every subject area covered and had the highest average ACT scores in the country.