The Problem With Our Schools Isn’t The Money

Last week, I dug into some education statistics I got from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and showed Americans pay out more per pupil than any other nation in the world and yet, our teacher salaries don’t necessarily reflect how much we’re spending. While we’re near the top in teacher salaries (we finished 5th), some countries that spend much less per pupil are able to pay their teachers more than we do (Poland & South Korea being the two primary examples).

While that was a point worth making, there’s actually a more important point that can be gleaned from those OECD numbers and that is pouring more money into education doesn’t necessarily produce better numbers. Here’s a chart that will show you what I mean. (The teacher salaries are from the ‘Primary education at the top of the scale with minimal training” numbers and the reading and math scores are comparisons between 15 year olds).

Just look at all the countries that spend far less than we do and get better results. South Korea spends $6000+ less per pupil than we do and has the best overall scores. Ireland spends less than half of what we do per pupil and has better scores than us — significantly better in reading proficiency. The Brits spend just more than half of what we do and they’re beating us easily.

Then there’s teacher salaries. We nearly double the pay teachers receive in Sweden and we pay 2 and 1/2 times what Iceland does, and yet both countries outscore us. So given those numbers and the fact that our teachers salaries are already comparable with every other nation out there except South Korea, I don’t think you even make a case that increasing teacher pay is an issue that is dramatically effecting the education our kids are getting.

So am I saying we should cut education funds or teacher salaries? No, although I’m of the opinion that it would be unlikely to hurt performance. The point of this post is that pouring more money into our school system IS NOT GOING TO FIX THE PROBLEM. Yet every time the mediocre performance of our public schools is brought up, we hear endless complaints that they’re underfunded and that simply IS NOT TRUE. Throwing money at our public schools isn’t the answer and whatever else we do — I’d suggest vouchers personally — can we at least agree that funneling more money into our education system isn’t going to accomplish anything?

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