Following the Money: A Tennessee Education Spending Primer

Feature, Policy — By on August 19, 2013 at 8:00 am

Beacon Center report analyzes how many tax dollars go into the classroom

NASHVILLE – A new study released today analyzes taxpayer spending on public education in Tennessee. In the study, the Beacon Center of Tennessee, the state’s premier free market policy organization, looked at the amount taxpayers actually spend on education versus what is reported, where that money goes, and whether more funding equals better results.

The first of its kind in Tennessee, the report titled “Following the Money: A Tennessee Education Spending Primer,” reached some troubling conclusions. First, the amount that taxpayers already spend on public education is significantly underreported. While the average stated amount spent per pupil is $9,123 per year, the true figure is about 11 percent more than reported, or $10,088 per student.

Of that funding, less than 54 percent is directed at classroom instruction, such as teacher salaries, textbooks, and other instructional spending. And that figure is in constant decline, whereas administrative spending is on the upswing. Since 2000, the number of administrators in Tennessee’s education system has grown by 34.5 percent, while the number of teachers has increased by less than 17 percent, and the number of students has grown by just seven percent.

Administrators’ salaries have also outpaced those of teachers during that time period. In fact, when factoring for inflation, teachers make less money today than they did in 2000.

“Not only have taxpayers been misinformed about how much we spend on education, there has been a growing trend of adding administrative personnel, redirecting funding away from the classroom,” said Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen.

Finally, after comparing similarly situated school districts within the state, while also comparing Tennessee to other states, the report found no measurable correlation between spending and student performance.

“Ultimately, more spending does not equal better results,” said Owen. “Rather than allocate more money, especially on administrative personnel, public school districts should focus on spending education funds more wisely. Only then can Tennessee expect to provide its students with the quality education they deserve.”

The full report can be found at http://www.beacontn.org/wp-content/uploads/Following-the-Money.pdf.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee’s mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.

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