The Fraud and Folly of American Public Education

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The Fraud and Folly of American Public Education

For fiscal year 2019, Federal, State and Local Governments within the United States are expected to spend $715 billion on K-12 education.  That’s up from $649 billion in 2015. Assuming a population of 325 million, this works out to a cost of roughly $2,200 a year for every man, woman and child. 

All 50 state-level education agencies gather detailed information about school revenue. Among their findings are these: 

  • State and local governments provide the bulk of K-12 education funding. In 2019, state and local governments will spend $676 billion, or 95 percent of all K-12 revenue.  
  • School systems will spend, on average, $14,193 per student. But that varies dramatically: New York state systems will spend an estimated $22,818 per student on average, while Utah state systems will spend $7,426 per student.  And, not surprisingly,
  • Schools' biggest costs are salaries and wages.  In 2019, states and localities are expected to spend $505 billion, or 80 percent of their education budgets, on paying pensions and salaries. 

Because of the political power of Teacher’s Unions, most public schools in most locations are run, first-and-foremost, for the benefit of the teacher’s unions.  As a result, the focus is on maximizing resources consumed rather than results produced.

Efforts to erode this dysfunction at the margin have been undertaken in the name of “school reform.”  And, some progress has been made in some places.  But, at the same time, education has become a grassroots magnet for disruptive socialism; its intent is to reinforce the prevailing political dynamic. 

The resulting competition between market forces and political interests has simmered for decades. However, in the context of the New American Civil War de facto “sleeper cells” within the education establishment have been activated in both Red and Blue states.  And the metastasis of the so-called RedforEd Movement, which we’ll examine later in this segment has emerged.  Its objective is to use the alleged need for increased education funding to shift more political power and economic resources to the teachers’ unions and their political allies.

However, given finite resources and a clear, if not desperate need for improved educational outcomes, the question is: “Should American communities put more resources into a failed system or try something new?”  Research shows that enhancing the cognitive skills of Americans would deliver an enormous payoff...

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