Friday, April 11, 2008

And You Thought Gas Prices Were High?

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The American LegislativeExchange Council (ALEC) released its 14th edition of the Report Card on American Education: A State-by-State Analysis, which covers the schoolyears 1985-1986 thru 2006-2007. This comprehensive guide ranks the educational performance of the school systems in the states and the District of Columbia with Minnesota placing first and the District of Columbia last. Findings include:

Based on a variety of indicators, ALEC's 2007 Report Card has found no direct correlation between conventional measures ofeducation inputs, such as expenditures per pupil and teacher salaries, and educational outputs, such as average scores on standardized tests. For instance, class sizes today are 15% smaller than they were 20 years ago, yet of the 10 states that experienced the greatest decreases, only one (Vermont) is found among the highest performing states in the rankings.

Even with dramatic increases in the amount of educational resources spent on primary and secondary education over the past 2 decades--expenditures have risen nationally to an all-time high of $9,295 per pupil--student performance has improved only slightly; 69% of American eighth-graders are still performing below proficiency in math and 71% in reading, according to the 2007 National Assessment of Education Progress.

The latest results of comparison among participating nations of the OECD peg American students’ achievement levels in science below dozens of other countries including Croatia, Latvia, and mainland China. In fact, the United States scores below the combined average of all countries observed.

Comment: Based on data in the report from Table 1.6, real Per Pupil Expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools has increased from $6051 in 1985-86 to $9295 in 2005-2006, a 53.61% increase (see graph above). Over the same period, real inflation-adjusted gas prices rose by only 10.9% according to EIA data, from $2.24 per gallon in January 1986 to $2.484 per gallon in January 2006 (the mid-point in the school year). Even adding two more years of real gas price increases and using the January 2008 price of $3.059, real gas prices have only increased by 36.6% since January 1986, far below the 53.6% increase in real public school spending from 1985-86 to 2005-06.

And the quality of gasoline has stayed the same over the last 20 years, which is not necessarily the case with public schools. In fact, the graphs below show that increases in spending have either no effect on test scores (top graph below, taken from the report), or a negative effect on test scores (bottom chart below).


22 Comments:

At 4/11/2008 9:45 AM, Anonymous Machiavelli999 said...

That goes along with the liberal dogma: Throw money at the problem until it goes away.

 
At 4/11/2008 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Machiavelli999 said...

That goes along with the liberal dogma: Throw money at the problem until it goes away.

Kind of like Iraq.

 
At 4/11/2008 3:49 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Kind of like Iraq"...

No anon @ 1:26 PM, its more like the War On Poverty...

I mean, what's mere $8.29 trillion spent with no hope of conquering poverty in site?

 
At 4/11/2008 4:44 PM, Blogger Ronald Rutherford said...

Excellent post.
Although I wonder how much adverse selection may be happening in this market. The children most likely to not do well end up with the most resources devoted to them.

I have read that LA School District spends about 17,000 per student per year but tuition for Catholic schools in Inglewood was much less than 10,000. Your graphs definitely point out that $10,000 seems to be the point where Marginal productivity decreases and becomes negative at that point.

 
At 4/11/2008 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a bit of an apples to oranges comparison. The main difference between these 2 things is the component of labour. While you can mechanize many elements of oil extraction & refinement, the present delivery method of education establishes optimal ratios of staff:student making leveraging of productivity very difficult to achieve.

Would it not be more logical to compare teaching to another service industry with high labour costs such as nursing?

A particularly high cost model is special education due to reduced staff:student ratios (some are 1:2). Nursing has similar challenges with care optimal at staff:patient ratios of 1:4.

Student proficiency levels are without question abysmal and it would seem clear that the present model of public education is not working comparisons to the price of gasoline notwithstanding.

 
At 4/14/2008 8:39 PM, Blogger Downes said...

Are they still doing that tired old comparison?

It's astonishing that a professor of economics would think he could get away with such a fallacy. He must think very poorly of the intelligence of his readers.

The price of gas is a *price* point. The amount of money spent on learning is a *spend* point. These are two very different types of things.

Why, one might ask, doesn't he compare the amount of money *spent* on gas compared to the amount of money spent on education? Because you knwo and I know, they spend much more on gas today than they did 20 years ago.

And you know - for all that extra spending on gas, they score no better on standardized tests!!! (That's about as relevant, too)

 
At 4/15/2008 7:09 AM, Blogger K T Cat said...

Terrific post! I just did a little digging myself and found out some amazing things about the San Diego school district's budget and their reaction to Governor Schwarzenegger's proposed budget cuts.

 
At 4/15/2008 7:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The price of gas is a *price* point. The amount of money spent on learning is a *spend* point. These are two very different types of things."

So we don't "spend" money on gas? And there is no "price" on education? interesting. One is a free market, the other is a government bureaucracy.

 
At 4/15/2008 7:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Downes,
the average fleet mileage has improved substantially over the last few decades, so the amount spent to go the same distance has increased less than the cited price per gallon numbers. If the amount spent per user has gone up it must be because they are driving farther.

 
At 4/15/2008 8:44 AM, Blogger Mike said...

"Kind of like Iraq."

Kind of nothing like Iraq. You see, in Iraq there is actually progress being made.

 
At 4/15/2008 9:01 AM, Blogger TombZ said...

And how does the cost of higher education stack up? I'll bet it's price/spend point has grown even faster than public school education.

I think that's because the universities have better economists than public schools.

 
At 4/15/2008 9:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the general thrust of the arguement but the SAT vs cost per pupil graph is a really bad choice as proof.

The average 2003-2004 Verbal+Quantatative SAT scores in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi (my home state) were 1124, 1125, and 1109 - far out-stripping the national average of 1026. How come the disparity... because less than 10% of the students in each of those states take the SAT versus a national average of nearly 50%. In those states only students who realistically could go out of state are going to take the SAT, otherwise they take the ACT.

I find it frustating when a good hypothesis gets backed up with misleading data...

 
At 4/15/2008 10:12 AM, Blogger al fin said...

Excellent comparison--spot on!

You get much more from your gasoline purchase than your government school tax drain. Gasoline: a bargain at twice the price!

Government education: an extravagant waste at half the price!

 
At 4/15/2008 10:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, the ALEC data relies on test scoring to measure achievement, but most analysis that I have seen does not take into account that increases in funds also means an increase in the number of students who take the tests, which skews the test score averages, because you have more kids on the fringes, ie. immigrants, etc. that the schools are able to reach with the increase in funds.

I'm no fan of our public school system, but it would be nice to see a debate without the unfair manipulation of data to suit one's view of the world. And I'm not saying that the author here has actually knowingly done that...I could be wrong, but with regard to the ALEC data, I think my statement above is correct.

 
At 4/15/2008 11:40 AM, Blogger YouGoAmerica! said...

With the increase of out-of-wedlock children having children, and the "intelligensia" telling them that this is okay, and the growth of entitlements which reward this behavior, we have seen a segment of our population that does not respect or value education or achievement growing faster than the population on the whole.

Our schools have become bureaucratic (many districts have more non-teachers than teachers), we have tied their hands with respect to discipline and respect, and teachers are distracted by nonteaching issues and constraints because 1)many kids don't have stable, secure homes, with parents that value education, and 2)activist judges protect derelicts of all ages at the expense of the rest of us.

We could spend $100,000 per year on a lot of these kids and it would not improve a thing. We need able, committed parents FIRST.

We need to stop policies that encourage and reward the cycle of children, incompetent for parenthood, from having children. In fact, as a society, we need to strongly discourage children from having children. It is ludicrous that loving, competent, stable parents are despised by the "intelligentsia" if they want three or four children (these are the people that SHOULD be having children), yet we tell the dregs of our society that it is okay to have children, we even encourage it with our bureaucratic policies, "on the dole."

We need to decide that we value education. We need to turn off our children's TV's, video games, and text messaging phones. We need to demand and expect that our children respect teachers and engage in the educational process. We need to get the bureaucrats out the way of teaching. We need to get the social "scientists" out of the way of education. We need to provide the opportunity for teachers to TEACH, then reward those that do it well - with money, respect, and admiration.

These approaches will improve education - more money will not.

 
At 4/15/2008 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The mission of the American Legislative Exchange Council is to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty among America's state legislators..."

End of non-story. This wasn't research, or economic analysis, it was 'think tank' dogma promotion, supported by distorted evidence. Typical right-wing tactic.

Now if ALEC had gone after the skyrocketing cost of university education, they might have had a point. But that wouldn't allow them to rag on 'public' schools.

 
At 4/15/2008 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "School(s) of Education" in the american higher education system are a joke, and have been for years.

As long as we allow the "slow" kids to ease through college as an ed major, the US elementary and secondary education system will remain as dumb as the teachers in it.

 
At 4/15/2008 5:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to know what the correlation is on either of those graphs because if you ask me it looks like it is far too spread out to make any conclusions at all.

 
At 4/16/2008 1:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has nothing t o do with politics and everything to do with sociology. having knowledge, about anything, is frowned upon..

 
At 5/03/2008 7:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You will find that the statistics are similar in all english speaking countries. It's the disorganized spelling that's holding students back.

Replacing this sick mongrel with nooalf would enable kids to begin learning math, science, technology on their own before they've even started kindergarten instead of teachers having to spoon feed illiterates for 3 years.

 
At 5/09/2008 10:59 PM, Anonymous TheSteelGeneral said...

Wow, if this kinda crap comes out of PROFESSORS of Economy, it's easy to see that the state of education in America is in decline.

First of all this a lame and misleading comparison since education is high

Parents cannot "buy" their kids education (a service) like gasoline (a good):
- education "prices" are mostly influenced by the 3 types of govt. federal, state and local. Gas prices are mostly set on world markets.
- There are limited education options, maybe two or 3 schools, while they can shop around for gas endlessly, even across state lines.
- The gas market is highly transparent and the product is pretty much the same everywhere.
How do you, compare a school with lotsa culture to a school with lotsa sport to a school which has both, and or more computer education?

The next time I argue with someone, i think I will use the phrase: "That's like comparing educational cost per pupil with gas prices"! instead of "Thats like comparing apples with oranges" cos this professors example is so humongously stupid ...

 
At 5/12/2008 5:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No you can't buy education, but you can certainly buy an environment where like minded individuals actually want there children to learn, care what they learn, and are involved on a daily basis with their education.

 

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