On Monday, The View, co-host Joy Behar launched an attack on the Trump administration and Republicans generally for allegedly not caring about education.
“[Republicans have] been spending the last few decades defunding education…” Behar said. “Why do they keep defunding education? Every time I turn around it’s less money.”
Sorry Joy, you may have been a teacher, but according to the hard data, you’re just flat-out wrong: education spending has actually increased in real dollars over the last few decades.
In today’s dollars, per-pupil spending has nearly doubled between 1980 and 2015. Today, the per-pupil average in the United States is close to $17,000, much more than the typical American guesses we spend in surveys (three out of five people think public schools actually get less than $5,000 per student, a figure less than a third of the real expenditure).
But voters and The View hosts might be forgiven for not knowing the true state of education spending in America; few outlets seem to report on it accurately. The Washington Post, for example, recently had to issue a retraction for a similarly inaccurate statement about education spending. An op-ed written by someone who should’ve known better, the Dean of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, contained the lie that “public funding for schools has actually decreased since the late 1980s.” Data from the National Center of Education Statistics, however, disagreed, and the Post had to withdraw the claim, issuing a correction that reads, in part, “funding at the federal, state and local levels has increased between the 1980s and 2019.”
Furthermore, there is little evidence that additional education spending correlates with academic performance. Despite decades of funding increases, scores on the national assessment (NAEP) remain flat or even in decline. Far from being underfunded, average per-pupil spending in the public system has actually edged up above average private school tuition. For example, in the District of Columbia, per-pupil expenditures are pushing up against $30,000 per year, considerably more than the tuition price at the vast majority of private schools. And yet the District’s results are some of the worst in the country.
This lack of correlation might have something to with the fact that while the flow of dollars into the public system has only increased over the years, districts often make poor choices regarding how they are allocated. Often, only a small percentage of taxpayer money makes it into the classroom, with the majority going to large pension systems and to fund a bureaucratic staffing boom that has been increasing in recent decades.
To rephrase the old Daniel Patrick Moynihan quip, everyone is entitled to her own opinion, but not her own facts. Joy Behar should retract her false statement about education funding to as large an audience as she misled with it.