Seven Not-So-Fun Facts About the Costs of Public Education

April 22, 2013

Seven Not-So-Fun Facts About the Costs of Public Education. I was in the midst of writing this for posting on Income Tax Day when last Monday’s tragedy occurred.

For many years we have expressed education expenditures as “per-pupil spending.” This is a reasonably good way to frame the numbers, though controversy sometimes arises over what is included and what isn’t. The following is a list of different angles on the same spending. All the figures cited are for 2010, courtesy of the National Center of Education Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

1) Revenues collected by governments for public education in the United States totaled $593.7 billion. About $261.4 billion came from local sources, $258.2 billion from state sources, and $74 billion from federal sources.

2) That’s about $1,922 from each and every American.

3) Or $2,531 from each adult, 18 and older.

4) Or $4,567 from each non-farm American worker on a payroll.

5) That amounts to 11.4 percent of the average worker’s salary, or $2.20 per hour.

6) The average American employee thus works almost one hour every day to fund public schools.

7) It would take the entire salary of 14,842,500 employees to pay for U.S. public schools, equivalent to the entire retail trade workforce.

Public education advocates often speak of school spending as an investment. It’s clear that our portfolio is heavily weighted in the education sector. The shareholders are understandably upset by weak ROIs and incessant margin calls. No wonder they responded by downsizing.

Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 16-22:

*  The Evergreen Charter School Unionization Story. There you go again.

Hawaii Pays for Performance Pay. That’s a pretty big carrot.

Exclusive Video of Chicago Teachers Union Candidate Training. Look, it’s the queen of diamonds!

*  Hedge Fund Hilarity. Fair share.

Math Skills Not Required. We’re gonna need a bigger calculator.

Quote of the Week. “We don’t blame the firefighters when there’s a fire, and we don’t blame the police for crime! Why would we? Then why are educators being blamed for the struggles of our public schools? Let’s look at the policies and the policymakers instead of the people doing the work every day.” – Earl Wiman, current member of the National Education Association Executive Committee. (April 12 speech to the Virginia Education Association Delegate Assembly)

We pay firefighters to put out fires. We pay police officers to catch criminals. We pay teachers to educate children. NEA pays Wiman to obscure the issue.