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"Education is underfunded" - the song and dance that doesn't end

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

As a new school year begins, don't forget to check the back to school list. Also, get to know your child's teachers and slow down in school zones.

And finally, remember, "education is underfunded!"

This is the mantra that never ends. It just goes on and on, my friends.

No matter how much is spent on public education, taxpayers are told it is not enough.

On the state level, it is a game. If state A raises its education spending above state B, citizens in state B are told they are underfunding education. Once state B raises its funding again, citizens in state A are accused of underfunding. And on and on we go.

But what does it mean to say "education is underfunded"? How much should we be spending? Most of the time, there is no answer other than "more."

It's natural to get concerned when seeing these headlines. But a review of the facts shows most states have a ton cash going to public education - much more than many parents and taxpayers realize. After all, why does Mrs. Johnson have to buy her own school supplies if the school district has plenty of money?

Over the past decade, both Idaho and Washington have doubled the amount the state spends on K-12 public education.

In New York, Washington, D.C., Vermont, Alaska and several other states, the average spent per student exceeds $20,000 per year.

Utah spends the least on education, and yet gets some of the best results.

Nation wide, the Education Data Initiative says we're spending an average of $13,701 per student, per year. The U.S. Census Bureau says the number is $14,347 per student

For a classroom of 25 students, that is $358,675.

Is that underfunding? You can decide.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD), the United States continues to spend one of the highest amounts, per student, of any country in the world. Yet the average student in countries including Singapore, Canada, China, Estonia, Germany, Finland, Netherland, and New Zealand continually rank years ahead - nearly 4 years advanced in math, 1.5 years in reading and 2.5 years in science.

Anyone or any group that claims that education is being underfunded has a responsibility to give us a number to work with. When will we know that we are fully funded?

The likelihood is the response will be "there is no magic number." And that's true. Because the facts show us spending is not what is most important.

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