People who say U.S. public schools are “underfunded” have no idea what they are talking about.
The United States is tied for first place with Switzerland when it comes to annual spending per student on its public schools.
In 2007, the Washington D.C. public school district spent $12,979 per student per year. This is the third highest level of funding per student out of the 100 biggest school districts in the U.S. Despite this high level of funding, in reading and math, the district’s students score the lowest among 11 major school districts – even when poor children are compared with other poor children. 33% of poor fourth graders in the U.S. lack basic skills in math, but in Washington D.C., it’s 62%.
In 2004, the U.S. Congress set up a voucher program for low income minority students in Washington D.C. to attend private schools. The vouchers were $7,500 per student per year. The parents said their children were receiving a much better education from the private schools. In 2007, Washington D.C. non-voting delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said she wanted the voucher program to be eliminated, and she wrongly said that the public schools needed more money.
A study showed that in Arizona, public schools spend 50% more per student than Arizona’s private schools. While teachers constitute 72% of the employees at private schools, they make up less than half of the staff at public schools. According to the study, if Arizona’s public schools wanted to be like private schools, they would have to hire approximately 25,000 more teachers, and eliminate 21,210 administration employees.
During the 2006–2007 school year, a private school in Chicago founded by Marva Collins to teach low income minority students charged $5,500 for tuition, and parents said that the school did a much better job than the Chicago public school system. Meanwhile, during the 2007–2008 year, Chicago public school officials wrongly claimed that their budget of $11,300 per student was not enough.
In 1985 in Kansas City, Missouri, a judge ordered the school district to raise taxes and spend more money on public education. Spending was increased so much, that the school district was spending more money per student than any of the country’s other 280 largest school districts. Although this very high level of spending continued for more than a decade, there was no improvement in the school district’s academic performance.
Between 1960 and 1995, U.S. public school spending per student, adjusted for inflation, increased by 212%, but the schools did not get any better.