Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Cost of Public Education

As many states face serious budget deficits and teeter on the edge of bankruptcy, the funding of public education has come under scrutiny.  While some cry foul and list education as a sacred cow, I'm all for looking at how this service can be delivered better, cheaper and more efficiently.

Recent statistics list the US as the third highest in spending for education with $7,764 per secondary school student.  However, in Math and Science the US student perform far below other countries that spend less.  We are 10th in those categories and a distant 10th at that.

I've been hearing a lot about paying teachers more and even had a conversation with a woman currently in school to become a teacher who was excited about Obama paying off her student loan.  When confronted with my objection to paying the balance of a loan she chose to take out, she replied that it was the least we could do for our children's education.  Poppycock!  The least we can do is give them a quality education which is currently not happening.

Let's do something unthinkable for a moment and really do the math on this.  If we're spending $7,764 per student and we have a classroom size of 30 students then we are spending $271,740 per classroom.  The teachers make about $30K per year but we can double that to include benefits and salaries for bureaucrats.  So that would leave us $211,740 per classroom.  We have the books that must be supplied but many of these are re-used.  Calculating a text book cost of $50 would still only be $1,500.  Then there are maintenance costs and the bus drivers and such but does that make up the remaining $210K per classroom?

Even for a moderately sized school of 250 students per grade, this would equate to $7 MILLION dollars for 4 years of students.  That is $7 Million spent on something other than the books and the teachers.  This means that only 22% of the money allocated to education is actually being spent on educating.  What in the world is the other 78% of the money being spent on?

The main focus of improving education and controlling spending should be around that 78% of the dollars.  Where's the money going, how is it being spent, is it adding to the quality of the education of the students, etc.  With the current situation we could throw more and more money at the problem and never have any of it trickle down into the actual classroom. 

We keep hearing that with budget cuts the government will have to cut teachers.  Really?  Why?  Especially considering that the teachers are only 22% of the budget.  Whey don't we do some serious cutting in the remaining 78%?  Why is it that when it comes to educating our children, the last consideration given is the actual process of educating them?  I'm all for paying great teachers more money, but that doesn't mean we should have to pay more in taxes.  It appears that there are TONS of places that the education budget can be slashed. 

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