California Education – Can You Buy Results?

Last week our district superintendent addressed our site concerning the current budget situation and how it will affect education. He posed an interesting question: “How is it that the 8th largest economy in the world ranks below the territories in education spending?”

Although it doesn’t change the point that was being made, some corrections to the facts should be pointed out. First, California ranks 11th as a world economy and we rank 47th among states in per student educational spending. More importantly, we rank 34th in SAT scores. This begs the question; does spending really have an effect on educational results? Even a quick glance at the two lists would indicate that the answer is no. The highest ranked state in SAT scores (Iowa) ranks near the middle in spending, while the state spending the most (Vermont) ranks 29th in SAT scores. Even in California, we rank higher in scores than many states spending more, but also lower than some spending less per student.

Due to the nature of our economy, it is unreasonable to even compare the cost of anything in California with that in other states directly. Everything in California costs more. It costs more to live in California, so it stands to reason that teacher salaries have to be more here than in other states. Construction costs are higher, as are maintenance and utilities. These are arguments (and there are others) for increased spending in California.

On the other hand, we have higher SAT scores than states spending more than we do per student. Does that mean that our programs are more effective than those states? Does that mean our teachers are better? Every state uses curriculum from only a few text book publishers. We all have the same material. We have the same or similar credentialing criteria. The biggest single factor seems to be the local economy.

Truth be told, the government has longago proven that the cost of something has little to do with its value. The local economy determines the time that parents have to spend with their children and that is the major determining factor of success.

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