Monday, July 16, 2012

No, actually, we spend quite a bit on schools

One of my guilty pleasures is Sunday evening on my deck with a glass of wine and the New York Times. I don't agree with everything I read (that's the point) but sometimes there is a truly astonishing statement.

For example, there was this piece by Shamus Kahn, a sociology professor at Columbia. In the course of arguing against the notion of meritocracy, he writes the following:

The narrative of openness and talent obscures the bitter truth of the American experience. Talents are costly to develop, and we refuse to socialize these costs. 
Dude, really?

He means more than the cost of education (more on that later), but he  means that as well. The notion that we "underfund" education is a staple of the Amreican left. But it is hard to square with the facts.

The US is at or near the top of the developed world in per capita spending on education. Even as a percentage of GDP, we are at or above the OECD average. (Needless to say, we don't achieve results commensurate with our investment.)

What we spend has been steadily increasing. Relying on government sources, the Heritage Foundation reports that:

Between 1994 and 2004, average per-pupil expenditures in American public schools have increased by 23.5 percent (adjusted for inflation). Between 1984 and 2004, real expenditures per pupil increased by 49 percent.[11] These increases follow the historical trend of ever-increasing real per-student expenditures in the nation's public schools. In fact, the per-pupil expenditures in 1970-1971 ($4,060) were less than half of per-pupil expenditures in 2005-2006 ($9,266) after adjusting for inflation.[12
Again, increased spending has not resulted in increased learning.

We appear to socialize the bejesus out of "these costs." Kahn, perhaps hedging against the truth, goes on to say that the development of human potential requires more than a well-supported school. One needs a "a safe, comfortable home and leisure time to cultivate the self."

Apparently, we must socialize everything.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.

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