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Friday, October 17, 2008

Don't believe the myth

I thought this Blog from the National School Boards Association was worth repeating.


October 16, 2008

Don't believe the myth

Well, it finally happened. Our presidential candidates were actually posed a question about education in last night’s debate — although we had to wait until the last question of the debate. But BoardBuzz was not exactly happy with the way in which the question was asked.

Moderator Bob Schieffer asked:

The question is this: the U.S. spends more per capita than any other country on education. Yet, by every international measurement, in math and science competence, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, we trail most of the countries of the world.

And that's when we hit the roof! Here we go again, with the spreading of the myth that the U.S. spends more on education than any other country. Won’t somebody actually look at the facts? Ask and you shall receive! That's exactly what the Center for Public Education is for and here is what they found out:

Out of 35 countries analyzed by the OECD 14 actually spend more on education as a percent of GDP—a measure of a nation’s overall wealth—than the United States. While the U.S. spends 3.8 percent of our wealth on primary and secondary education, the United Kingdom-- which ranks third-- spends 4.6 percent. Even Mexico spends 4.4 percent of their wealth on education. As a matter of fact the U.S. spends just as much as the average industrialized country.

The U.S. does invest more in elementary and middle school education ranking 8th but when it comes to investing in our high schools the U.S. actually drops to 23rd, not exactly throwing money at our high schools.

So to say the U.S. spends more on education than any other country is just plain wrong. BoardBuzz isn’t arguing that more money by itself will cure the challenges our schools face. However, the debate on how to use taxpayer money is of the utmost importance, especially to school board members for whom taxpayers entrust their money to be spent wisely. But we would assert that the funding debate shouldn’t be clouded by the myth that the U.S. spends more than any other country already.

And don’t get BoardBuzz started about the whole “we trail most of the countries of the world” in every measure of math and science competency issue. As a matter of fact, our 4th and 8th graders perform in the middle of the pack. Bob Schieffer would know this if he just glanced at the Center for Public Education’s More than a horse race: A guide to international assessments of student achievement.

To check out for yourself how U.S. education spending compares to other countries check out Indicator B2: What proportion of national wealth is spent on education? in OECD’s Education at a Glance 2008.

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