It’s that spooky time of year, and organizations such as Center on Budget and Policy Priorities are celebrating the season with all kinds of tricks when it comes to education finance.
CBPP is funded through George Soros’ Open Society Foundations (formerly the Open Society Institute) and is one of the top Soros grantees, receiving nearly $3.8 million. This connection matters because a core agenda of Soros’ foundations is the expansion of government dependency not free-markets and individual opportunity.
So it should come as no surprise that CBPP’s recent report claims that states are underfunding education:
States are providing less per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did seven years ago — often far less. The reduced levels reflect primarily the lingering effects of the 2007-09 recession. At a time when states and the nation need workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, this decline in state educational investment is cause for concern.
Sounds pretty scary, until you dig deeper into the numbers.
Turns out, the report excludes a lot of funding to prop up its underfunding argument as Michael C. Carnuccio, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, explains in his recent Journal Record column:
The CBPP…favors increased government spending on our monopoly school system, issuing a new report claiming Oklahoma leads the nation in cuts to education.
The problem is, the report is highly misleading. …
For example, it excludes the record amounts of dedicated state funding for teachers’ retirement.
Policymakers have significantly increased contributions to the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System – from $128.9 million in FY 2003 to $300.5 million in FY 2013. That’s an increase of $171.6 million, or 133.17 percent.
Only in government would one argue that money for teacher retirement benefits doesn’t count as funding for education.
That’s not all. The CBPP report also assumes that state spending levels are determined by sensible analyses of actual schooling costs and needs. They’re not.
In any given state education spending decisions are made based on dizzying pre-fabbed formulas typically set on auto-pilot to increase each year—regardless of changes in student enrollments or performance.
Money certainly matters in education, but how it’s spent matters far more. Private schools across the country get better academic results at a fraction of the amounts public schools spend. Private school parental choice programs also consistently show that participating students—particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds—have higher academic achievement, high school graduation rates, and college-attendance and completion rates.
Support for parental choice in education—not more money for any one schooling system—is the best policy path for better education in America.