Saturday, April 19, 2008
Has Education Spending Really Skyrocketed?
I just read a post at D-Ed Reckoning about the astronomical increases in per-pupil education spending over the past century. Though expenditures rose in terms of real dollars, I wondered how they compared to the GDP of the U.S. So I found data on the GDP of the U.S. since 1940 (here) and combined the two. The results are above. As a percentage of GDP, per-pupil expenditures (other than a drop during WWII) have stayed almost exactly flat over the past 65 years. The chart is a bit small, but if you click on it then you can see a larger version.
The question remains over what the most relevant comparison is over time. The fact that per-pupil spending relative to GDP has remained the same over time indicates that we're putting forth about the same financial effort relative to our capacity to spend, but if our capacity to spend has increased then we might still expect larger gains in achievement over that time. On the other hand, increased spending capacity should also increase the country's discretionary income -- apparently we've chosen to spend that on items other than education.
Update: More on this in a follow-up post
Later update: Corrected version of the graph (oops) here