The media love to point out that spending more per-student has not resulted in improved outcomes (“Why New York schools spend so much for such mediocre results,” New York Post, May 24). New York State, which spends more to educate students than any other state, serves as a case in point.
Despite an outlay of $22,366 per student – nearly twice the national average of $11,762 – students in the Empire State perform worse than average on the National Assessment for Educational Progress. According to critics, this disconnect is evidence that increased expenditures do not assure better results.
But the issue is not quite as simple as it seems. To understand why, it’s necessary to take a closer look at school budgets. About $8 of every $10 is used to pay for staff salaries and benefits. The purchasing power of salaries in most states has not kept pace with inflation. As a result, teachers can’t be expected to produce better outcomes under the circumstances. They’re barely hanging on. For example, although New York City spends more than the nation’s other 10 biggest cities, the cost of living in New York City is also the highest.
Unions are blamed for driving up salaries while protecting underperforming teachers. That argument will be tested in the years ahead if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiff in the Janus case, as it is expected to do. I’ll bet weakening unions will do little – if anything – to improve student performance, which in the final analysis is what is most important.
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