And You Thought Oil Prices Were High?
(Note: Graph and post have been updated.)
The data for public school spending are only available through the 2001-2002 school year from the Department of Education, and I was unable to find a comparable series through 2007, but I extended the series from 2002 through 2007 by assuming that the trend in spending for education would continue (about a 3% per year real growth rate).
Conclusion #1: Oil prices in real dollars have increased 2.4X since 1929 (the inflation-adjusted price index in the graph above goes from 100 to 240).
Conclusion #2: On the other hand, the average cost of educating a student in U.S. public schools today is about 10X the cost in 1929, measured in real dollars (the inflation-adjusted price index in the graph goes from 100 to 1000).
Conclusion #3: Consider also that the quality of a barrel of oil has probably remained the same since 1929, and we probably can't say that about the quality of public school education over the last 78 years. For example, see this 8th grade exam from 1895; how many high school students could pass this today?