Money Is Not What Schools Need

by John Stossel

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently claimed: “Districts around the country have literally been cutting for five, six, seven years in a row. And, many of them, you know, are through, you know, fat, through flesh and into bone … .”

Really? They cut spending five to seven consecutive years?

Give me a break!

Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, writes that out of 14,000 school districts in the United States, just seven have cut their budgets seven years in a row. How about five years in a row? Just 87. That’s a fraction of 1 percent in each case.

Duncan may be pandering to his constituency, or he may actually be fooled by how school districts (and other government agencies) talk about budget cuts. When normal people hear about a budget cut, we assume the amount of money to be spent is less than the previous year’s allocation. But that’s not what bureaucrats mean.

“They are not comparing current year spending to the previous year’s spending,” Coulson writes. “What they’re doing is comparing the approved current year budget to the budget that they initially dreamed about having.”

So if a district got more money than last year but less than it asked for, the administrators consider it a cut. “Back in the real world, a K-12 public education costs four times as much as it did in 1970, adjusting for inflation: $150,000 versus the $38,000 it cost four decades ago (in constant 2009 dollars),” Coulson says.

Taxpayers need to understand this sort thing just to protect themselves from greedy government officials and teachers unions.

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