USA No. 1 in education — spending

High School Graduation rate, Cagle, May 1, 2013July 5, 2013

By Larry Sand

The National Education Association, whose state affiliate is the California Teachers Association, just came out with a “research” report which should be taken about as seriously as the Tobacco Institute study that denied the link between smoking and lung cancer. The “Rankings of the States 2012 and Estimates of School Statistics 2013” report is filled with half-truths and worse. The summary tells us that education is hurting in America and the problems revolve around the fact that we don’t spend enough. We are led to believe that per-student spending is insufficient, we don’t pay our teachers enough, and class sizes are too big.

But then, lo and behold, we get a real study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which historically has supplied us with objective international comparisons. Released last week, their latest, a 440 page tome, is filled with statistics that lay to waste much of the NEA’s tired plea for more spending on education.

From an Associated Press summary of the report, we learn:

“The United States spent more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student. When researchers factored in the cost for programs after high school education such as college or vocational training, the United States spent $15,171 on each young person in the system—more than any other nation covered in the report.

“That sum inched past some developed countries and far surpassed others. Switzerland’s total spending per student was $14,922 while Mexico averaged $2,993 in 2010. The average OECD nation spent $9,313 per young person.” (Emphasis added.)


According to NEA’s way of thinking, being the top spender should result in the U.S. producing the best students, but this is not the case. In fact, far from it. AP continued:

“U.S. fourth-graders are 11th in the world in math in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, a separate measure of nations against each other. U.S. eighth-graders ranked ninth in math, according to those 2011 results.

“The Program for International Student Assessment measurement found the United States ranked 31st in math literacy among 15-year-old students and below the international average. The same 2009 tests found the United States ranked 23rd in science among the same students, but posting an average score.”

What about teacher salaries?

The OECD report found:

“The average first-year high school teacher in the United States earns about $38,000. OECD nations pay their comparable educators just more than $31,000.

“That trails Luxembourg, which pays its first year teachers more than $72,000 a year, but far exceeds the $10,000 paid to first-year high school teachers in Slovakia. Among all educators, U.S. payrolls are competitive. The average high school teacher in the United States earns about $53,000, well above the average of $45,500 among all OECD nations.”

And of course, the countries with the smallest class sizes are the most successful, right?

Well, no. There is absolutely no correlation. For example, countries with about 30 students per elementary school class — Chile, Japan, Israel and Korea — do better than we do with about 20 kids per class when it comes to students completing an upper secondary education.


Via Choice Media, Paul Peterson, Director of the Program on Education Policy and Government at Harvard University, states the obvious:

“We do not spend our money wisely. We don’t have a very competitive system. Anytime a monopoly spends money, and our education system is a monopoly, it is not spending money efficiently. We don’t hire our teachers the right way. We don’t pay the best teachers more money and we don’t get rid of our weakest teachers because we pay everybody the same rate except for their credentials and their years of experience. We don’t have a way of easing the weakest members of the teaching force out of the profession.”

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.


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  1. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 5 July, 2013, 10:11

    The AVERAGE cost per student in LA Unified is over $30K per year, don’t forget to add I those bond issues.

    Reply this comment
  2. Steele, Ted, When only the very best will do!
    Steele, Ted, When only the very best will do! 5 July, 2013, 13:10

    Quick! Let’s turn this thread into an anti teacher thread! Hurry Doomers ™ !!!

    Reply this comment
  3. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 5 July, 2013, 13:53

    Anti Teddy Thread 😉

    Reply this comment
  4. Steele, Ted, When only the very best will do!
    Steele, Ted, When only the very best will do! 5 July, 2013, 15:52

    anti teacher and or union thread in 3 2 1

    Reply this comment
  5. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 5 July, 2013, 18:27

    Teddy meltdown… 3…2…1!

    Reply this comment
  6. Excalifornian
    Excalifornian 6 July, 2013, 06:14

    My wife is a teacher. The problem with teaching is it attracts too many ” coasters”. If you are a really bright college kid and excel in math and science, what would motivate you to go into teaching? If it was possible for say the top 10% of teachers to earn big league salaries like doctors, MBA’s, etc. perhaps you would get 10% of your teachers being ” big league performers”. Then you select the top 10% of your middle school kids to go to the top 10% schools stacked with the ” big league” teachers and now you have a big pool of talented and well educated high school graduates to fill your now elite public universities. You can then stratify the rest of the kids in 10-20% increments down to the last 20% who learn how to serve up burgers and re tread tires. Instead we lump everybody together and kid ourselves that they are all college material. Instead we teach/serve to the lowest common denominator and wonder why our results are so bad. We need a good chunk of our young people going to trade schools. I’m sorry, we are all not created equal, but we need all kinds of skill sets ( we need people to fix air conditioners and build things just as much as we need good doctors and soft ware engineers). The sad part is there are some very bright kids living in South Central LA and similar environments who will never reach their potential because of their social situation that we can’t change. If we can identify even 10% of those kids with talent and place them in the best environment for learning ( those with highly motivated and participating parents) with our top teachers I bet we would have better results.

    Reply this comment
  7. CSHJ
    CSHJ 7 July, 2013, 10:01

    I moved to L.A. in ’77 and witnessed the schools just being flushed down the toilet by making the schools MULTI LINGUAL. It would be cheaper and better for all concerned (even non English speaking students) if the schools taught in one language only. The schools in Hispanic neighborhoods could teach only in Spanish and the English neighborhoods only in English. If there is a mix, I’m sorry, this is the U.S.A. not Mexico and we speak English here although no one could get it together enough to make it the official language. Kids that don’t speak the language of the nation aren’t going to do as well because they won’t understand what is being said. Whose fault is that???? Not California’s. That rests squarely on the parents of the students AND the students. I would also suggest that they let the students fail. If they can’t do the work or won’t do it then they get held back. If they don’t like it……….well, it sucks to be them.

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 7 July, 2013, 10:29

    Well, if all schools bought all students a new Apple Ipad then our problem/s will be solved 😉

    Reply this comment
  9. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 7 July, 2013, 10:30

    Oh wait;

    Apple Awarded $30 Million iPad Deal From LA Unified School District

    Reply this comment
  10. cyndikus
    cyndikus 7 July, 2013, 11:49

    Vouchers are the only reasonable solution. Not only are our schools costing a fortune for marginal results, they have joined hands with the police and prison union to easily send unwanted kids to the juvenile detention. Juvenile detention has a 80% recidivism rate and practically insures clients for the prison department. How many people are aware that the school discipline record is the first document the court will request if a kid gets in trouble even when the trouble does not occur at school. That would be equivalent to getting arrested and having no prior record so they have your work send over your personal record. there is a lot of legislation in California’s Congress to try to address this issue but for now the police live on campus in our schools. My personal belief is that the crime rate is so low that we are criminalizing kids for minor infractions to insure the police and prison guard unions can justify hiring more and more people.

    Reply this comment
  11. BobA
    BobA 8 July, 2013, 08:58


    Schools today don’t educate; they indoctrinate. The average high school graduate today is at best a functional illiterate.

    Reply this comment
  12. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 8 July, 2013, 21:49

    Bobo…..i just met a freshman gal studying electrical
    Engineering at Cal Poly…..she went to public schools.

    Why are you so negative? Are you unhappy working at Big Lots and loving it?

    Reply this comment
  13. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 8 July, 2013, 23:48

    Bobo…..i just met a freshman gal studying electrical Engineering at Cal Poly…..she went to public schools.

    Huh???? LOL…so what?

    Reply this comment
  14. BobA
    BobA 9 July, 2013, 09:51

    Ulysses Uhaul:

    For what it’s worth, I spent my career as a professional engineer and became a stock options millionaire 5 years ago. I retired shortly thereafter at age 53.
    I’m fortunate enough to not have to work for a living and I now spend my time in service to this great country of ours via conservative organizations. (And don’t confuse conservatism with republicans. Republicans are as equally inept and useless as democrats.)

    What’s your story? still a wage slave and looking forward to that government retirement check?

    Reply this comment
  15. tamandua
    tamandua 1 August, 2013, 10:17

    The public school system in California is one of the finest in the nation…if student’s don’t want to participate, so be it…the ccc were not designed to teach remedial math and English to functional illiterates, who could not finish high school, because they can’t conjugate a verb and are incapable of doing intermediate algebra, which most 7th graders can do! If high school overwhelmed these student’s…please find a meaningful blue collar vocation…don’t bottle-neck the ccc for student’s who want a solid education that is affordable, because you think you’re degree worthy…especially when a high school diploma eluded you, due to poor study habits and apathetic parent’s…dig a ditch, or weld some rebar

    Reply this comment

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