How Do K-12 Budget Cuts Keep Resulting in More Spending?

I had occasion yesterday to peruse the latest edition of NEA’s Rankings & Estimates. It’s always an ediying experience and this time was no exception. There is no denying that teacher layoffs have occurred over the past three years – although not to the extent many believe. But the constant cries of education spending being cut to the bone are difficult to square with the figures on per-pupil spending, which show uninterrupted increases.

Let’s look at the last 10 years for convenience, and the last three to examine the effects of national recession. In 2001-02, there were 2,991,724 K-12 classroom teachers and 47,360,963 K-12 students. K-12 per-pupil spending was $7,676.

Ten years later, there were almost 7 percent more teachers and 4 percent more students. Per-pupil spending wa $10,976 – a 43% increase (12.6% in constant dollars).

If we compare this year’s numbers to three years ago, we see an enrollment increase of 0.5 percent, a teacher reduction of 0.4 percent, and an increase in per-pupil spending of 6 percent (1.5% in constant dollars).

If we accept the fact that many school districts are actually spending less than they were three years ago, the national averages force us to accept the fact that many more are still spending more.