Income Inequality and Education Funding

Education Funding Income

Education Funding IncomeIt’s election season and one of the big topics that always comes up is the topic of education funding. Here in Georgia, it’s a big deal in the governor’s race.

Doing a series of posts on income inequality expectedly brought me to looking into education. But I’ve had an education about education funding. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. The U.S. spends more than any other developed nation on education per student.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which groups the world’s most developed countries,

the United States spent more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student. When researchers factored in the cost for programs after high school education such as college or vocational training, the United States spent $15,171 on each young person in the system — more than any other nation covered in the report…The average OECD nation spent $9,313 per young person. [1]

As a share of it’s economy,

the United States spent more than the average country in the survey. In 2010, the United States spent 7.3 percent of its gross domestic product on education, compared with the 6.3 percent average of other OECD countries. Denmark topped the list on that measure with 8 percent of its gross domestic product going toward education. [1]

And what is the biggest cost in education? Teacher’s salaries. The report states that the “average first-year high school teacher in the United States earns about $38,000. OECD nations pay their comparable educators just more than $31,000.”

2. Education funding comes primarily through property taxes.

The United States “funds primary and secondary public education mainly through subnational taxation.” Subnational taxation simply means local and state taxes. Only 10 percent of educational funding comes through the federal government. [2]

This means that those school districts in lower socio-economic areas receive less funding for education, obviously putting those students at a disadvantage. Additionally, school districts that reside in areas with low property taxes also receive less funding. This also means that wealthier states are able to provide more money for education.

Does that mean the federal government provide more money for education? If it’s your opinion that schools should be locally controlled, then the answer is no. Why? Because with money comes strings, and there would have to be conformity to a national standard set by out of touch politicians. It would also require more paperwork and reporting, which would increase overhead on the school district.

More money coming from the federal government would not necessarily mean more money getting to the students. And because I am married to a 4th grade teacher who also runs grant-funded after-school program, I can tell you that the system needs less paperwork and reporting and more teaching. In fact, I think the educational system would thrive if the teachers could just teach. But that’s another post for another day.

The truth is that public spending accounts for just 70 cents of every education dollar in the United States. Parents picked up another 25 cents and private sources paid for the remainder in 2010. [1]

I’m going to save my opinions for dealing with the educational system for another series of posts lat another time. But for now, the question I have for you is this:

Based on this information, what do you think should be done regarding education funding?


1. U.S. education spending tops global list, study shows

2.  Janet Yellen on the Broken Way America Pays for Public Schools

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

He has also pastored 3 churches and loves to think about, write about and podcast about scripture, theology, and leadership.

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