Friday, March 4, 2011

Some food for thought on the topic of Utah Public Education Spending

Warning: this is a boring blog post. If you get bored, feel free to close it.

We here all the time that Utah is last in the nation in terms of per pupil spending. We also hear all the time that we have the largest class sizes in the country. A while back I heard somebody trying to explain this in terms of the larger than average family sizes in Utah, but I got curious about the facts, so I turned to the Census Bureau and an Excel Spreadsheet. Here is what I found…

Utah is indeed 51st out of all the states and the District of Columbia in terms of spending per student ($7,228.58, with a National Average of $11,562.01). But, what’s more shocking perhaps is that we are 46th in spending per non-student (Total Population minus student population. We come in at $1,702.47, with a national average of $2,224.57), and 30th in terms of % GDP spent on Education (4.96% compared to a National Average of 5.26%). Admittedly, 30th is a lot better than 51st, but still since we are so far behind on the other measures, we can surely bump that up? Finally, in terms of class size we are 51st (at 21.18 students per teacher, compared to a National Average of 15.03).

But, what if we were to try and fix this? What if we were to try and be average in any of those categories, what would it do to the other categories?

  1. If we were to try and be average in spending per student ($11,562.01), we would have to increase spending on Education by about 60%. In the process we would become sixth in the nation in terms of spending per non student ($2,723.08), and 1st in the Nation in terms of % GDP spent on Education (at 7.94%).image
  2. If we were to try and be average in spending per non student ($2,224.57), we would have to increase spending by about 30%. Yet, we would only be 44th in the Nation in per student spending ($9,445.34) but we would jump to 3rd in the nation in terms of % GDP spent on Education (6.48%).image
  3. If we were to try and be average in terms of % GDP spent on Education, we would have to increase spending by only 6%. In the process, however, we would become 50th in the nation in terms of per student spending ($7,669.96) and we would only be 42nd in the nation in terms of spending per non student ($1,806.43).image
  4. If we were to try and have average class sizes, we would have to have 32,057 teachers, which would mean an increase of 36% in the number of teachers that we have.image

Now, demographically, I get why we are last in the nation in spending per student. I even get economically why we are lower on the totem pole for per-non student spending (we don’t have a lot of oil revenue or capital gains tax income). What I don’t get is the % GDP spent on Education. Surely we can at least increase it to become average (number 3 above). And maybe we can even match our neighbors in Wyoming (who are second behind Alaska- and I don’t really count Alaska because they don’t really pay state taxes). If we did that we’d be second in the country at 6.72% GDP. Sure, we’d still be 41st in the country in per student spending ($9,790.90) and 12th in terms of per-non student spending ($2,305.95). But at least we’d be really trying.

Anyway, I had to get this off my chest after crunching the numbers. What do you think?

(By the way, this only refers to K-12 education. I took the Census Data from 2006 and 2007 to compile this information. If you would like a copy of the spreadsheet, I’d be happy to e-mail it to you, or you can click here).

2 comments:

  1. It would be interesting to see the data you have compared to state SAT scores. All I know is public education is diseased...until teachers and legislators stop fighting the students will suffer.

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  2. I am impressed with the numbers. I am even more impressed that we seem to put out a lot of excellent, well educated students in spite of everything!

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