Written on Friday, May 18, 2012 by David L. Goetsch
America’s public school students continue to score well below students from other developed countries on standardized tests of math, science, reading, and problem solving. Embarrassed teachers’ unions are blaming the poor performance of American students on budget cuts. This is nothing more than finger pointing to distract taxpayers from the real reasons for poor performance, but it is at least a well-timed if disingenuous distraction. Because of the disastrous economic policies of the Obama administration, most states have had to suffer through persistent recessionary conditions for three years and counting.
As a result, local school systems in most states have experienced on-going budget cuts or, at least, what teachers’ unions call budget cuts. In many cases the so-called cuts have really been reductions in projected increases as opposed to actual cuts. In fact, only the skewed logic of the left could define a reduction in a proposed budget increase as a budget cut. A cut is when you end up with less funding than you had, not less than you wanted.
Nothing energizes that bastion of the left, teachers’ unions, like the threat of funding cuts. And no organ of the left is more accomplished at circling the wagons and firing back with blatantly exaggerated scare tactics when budget cuts are even mentioned. For example, according to Dan Reed (WORLD, August 27, 2011): “When thousands of Texas teachers marched on the state capitol in Austin this spring to protest proposed cuts in state funding for K-12 education, some carried signs claiming that tens of thousands of teachers would be laid off. By late June, when the Texas legislature finally passed its biennial budget, it turned out that state spending on K-12 education in 2012 and 2013 is ‘cut’ only in the sense that schools will be getting a $1.6 billion increase in state funding next year instead of the $3.6 billion hike they would have received under the state’s previous school funding formula.”
Teachers’ unions have long used scare tactics and blatant misrepresentations to convince taxpaying parents that there is a direct correlation between money and quality in K-12 education. While money is certainly a factor, it is not nearly the factor that teachers’ unions claim. Their contention that more money means better quality has no basis in fact. Just the opposite is true. Data over a 40-year period show that increased funding for public education has not improved student achievement at all.
Proof that the problems widely associated with public education in America have little to do with money is readily available to any unbiased stakeholder who cares to see it. One of the best ways to test the correlation between money spent and student achievement is to compare the annual per pupil spending of the United States against that of other countries, especially those whose students consistently outperform American students on standardized tests.
For example, most industrialized nations of the world spend less per pupil annually than the United States, but they require more school days in the school year and they consistently outscore the United States on standardized tests. The United States spends approximately $7,500 per pupil per year in its public schools. Japan spends approximately $5,700 and Korea spends on $3,700. Yet students in both of these countries easily outscore their American counterparts on standardized tests of math, science, and reading. They also outscore American school children on advanced problem solving.
Lest one think that it is just Asian nations that outscore the United States on standardized tests, consider the facts. The list of countries whose students outscore American students on standardized math tests includes the following: Hong Kong, Finland, Korea, Netherlands, Liechtenstein, Japan, Canada, Belgium, Macao, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Iceland, Denmark, France, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Slovak Republic, Norway, Luxembourg, Poland, Hungary, Spain, and Latvia. The lists for science, reading, and problem solving are similar.
Here is the hard truth that teachers’ unions refuse to admit: No amount of money will improve student achievement as long as it is wasted on left-wing indoctrination, multiculturalism, and artificial attempts to build self-esteem. Until public educators decide to set the bar high and teach reading, writing, math, science, critical thinking, and problem solving instead of turning out under-educated high school graduates who are programmed to toe the line of liberal orthodoxy, American students will continue to lag behind and, before long, so will America.