Sunday, April 5, 2009

Take On Education

According to a newly released report which compares education in G-8 countries by the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2005, the United States ranked the highest among the reporting G-8 countries in terms of expenditure per student ($9,800) at the combined primary and secondary education levels as well as at the higher education level ($24,400). Besides, the US spent a higher percentage of its GDP on education (6.7 percent). Another report of the Center indicates that the figure had reached 7.4 percent of GDP in 2007-2008 with the expenditures of educational institutions rising to an estimated $1,017 billion. After adjustment for inflation, total expenditures of all educational institutions rose by an estimated 36 percent between 1997–98 and 2007–08.

Extraordinarily as the nationwide investment in education unfolded, what happened in Minnesota, a place values education? The graph below shows the total spending of Minnesota government, and the revenues generated by the state and local governments for financing education. (For detailed information, please refer to Actually you can play with the tools to obtain the big four spending of both the federal government as well as state and local governments, and most interestingly, to draw your “personalized” graphs of government spending.)

With the statistics obtained from this website, I made some simple calculations. From 1997 to 2007, the revenue generated by the local governments was increased by 51.73 percent, while Minnesota state government speeded up much faster by an increase of 105.96 percent. These indeed appeared to be pleasant numbers. But wait… During the same period of time, Minnesota GDP was increased by 63.95 percent, reaching the amount of $252.628 billion, of which the state and local government took 5.6 percent for education spending. The figure was only 0.1 percent higher than it was ten years ago. Both the education spending-GDP ratios were lower than the national figures mentioned at the beginning. In fact, Minnesota had dropped to 23rd in total spending per pupil in 2007.

Since the 2009 legislative session started, the two key players in the budget debate have been publicly disagreeing on funding for K-12 education, which is the largest area of state spending. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has his ground. He listed in the 2009 Education Proposals a series of challenges which justified the necessity of more spending on education. Meanwhile, far away in the White House, President Obama also pledged to “take on education.” Minnesotans, a population who values most education, would be most apt to support funding for public schools. But wait again… Why Pawlenty never mentions the gloomy ranking to support his splendid proposals? (At least I have not seen any yet.) Well, he is not new to the position. He should be aware the ranking stuff all the time, and more or less, contributed to the dropping.

I bet dropping to the bottom of the spending-per-pupil list, if ever possible, would freak out every living creature in Minnesota. Okay, let’s see. In 2007, the most lagged behind on the daunting list was Utah, spending $5,706 on each student. $5,706 ─ no-quality education? Insurmountable challenges? No wonder the bottom billion are surly hopelessly doomed.

It is indeed not exactly my point to make clear whether spending more on education with a huge deficit is reasonable. Actually, I do not know. But I am 100 percent sure that it benefits the future, which deeply hurt by the greedy managers on the infamous street.

1 comment:

  1. Haoping, this is excellent! Could you revise the figure to make it from 1994-2010 so that the numbers won't "become zero" afterwards?