A group of Kentucky education organizations has banded together to grab a bigger percentage of a very stressed state tax pot. These education folks are quick to point to some decay in one element of our overall education funding for schools while totally ignoring the reality that overall, taxpayers have made some pretty decent increases in funding in the last 10 years.
How much of an increase? The graph below was developed from Kentucky Department of Education Receipts and Expenditures reports, which are released annually. The data show the total per pupil revenue for education statewide in Kentucky from all sources, local, state and federal taxes combined, by school year. This bottom line total per pupil figure is what we taxpayers really spend on education across all Kentucky school districts (teacher health care and teacher retirement funding isn’t included, though they are also education related costs).
As you can see, except for a little dip between 2000-01 and 2001-02, total education expenditures in Kentucky grew steadily over the past decade. The rise in spending over time shown in the graph is 47 percent.
In constant 2001 dollars, real spending also grew from $7,251 to $8,336 per pupil between 2000-01 and 2010-11 according to calculations I ran with the Bureau of Labor Statistics very cool CPI Inflation Calculator. That’s a 15 percent increase in real spending.
In fact, if we just compare the 2010-11 spending to spending in 2007-08, the last school term before the housing finance fiasco broke, Kentucky’s total per pupil public school funding in terms of constant 2001 dollars rose from $8,198 to $8,336. That is an increase of 1.7 percent in real education spending over the three-year period that the US economy suffered its worst performance since the Great Depression, a time when about one in ten Kentuckians found themselves out of work.
For the taxpayer it doesn’t so much matter if the tax bite shifts from local to state or federal sources. The overall bite is what counts, and the total tax bite for education has increased for Kentucky in the past decade. It doesn’t sound like our legislators are in the mood to increase it more.
What I’d really like to see is some serious and effective innovation in how our school system spends those tax dollars. That is why I have been looking at digital learning efforts in the state. Digital learning shows potential to provide us with much more effective and efficient educational programs in the future.
I also am happy about the greatly increasing emphasis on collecting higher quality data on education, information which is essential to inform us about what does, and does not, work.
To summarize, as far as just spending more money, the simple fact is that when it comes to education, the US already outspends just about every country on the planet. We need instead to come up with ways to run our educational systems much more efficiently on the rather considerable amount of money they already get. We cannot afford to throw money we don’t have at a system that so far hasn’t really changed all that much where it counts – in increased student performance.