Education Dollars Not Finding the Classroom

For the three hundred and twenty-three thousandth time (or so), it’s not the total amount of education dollars provided — it’s how the dollars are spent.

The latest evidence comes from California. Yes, we can learn from the Golden State. Pepperdine University did the research on five-year spending at more than 950 public school districts. The key result:

Between 2003-2004 and 2008-2009, total school spending per capita (not including capital spending) increased by 24.9%. This, of course, was far greater than the growth in per capita personal income or inflation. Direct classroom expenditures, however, declined from 59% to 57.8%.

Statewide expenditures for teacher salaries and benefits (obviously by far the biggest part of the direct classroom mix) declined from 50% to 48%. The question is where did the more than 42% of dollars go that were spent outside the classroom?

The president of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education noted, "It is intriguing to contemplate the lost opportunities this study brings to light. If California had the extra $1.7 billion that went outside the classroom, we might have been able to hire more than 21,000 teachers statewide."