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Education money should be spent on students, not bureaucratic endeavors

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Education in the United States has always been one of the strongest draws to our great country. We have the best system of Universities and are the global leader in technology and technological advancements; enjoying the success that has come on the backs of the previous generations. Unfortunately, recent tests have clearly demonstrated that we are slowly losing that standing and falling behind the world in the education arena. While the US isn’t on top with respect to the test scores, we are in one other key category: Spending.

The facts

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently released its annual report showing where the US students land on the world spectrum of everything from international test scores to student spending. While it may come as little surprise to some, the US is holding steady around the middle of the pack on test scores despite spending more than any other country on education. The report finds that the US spends about $15,171 per student in the educational system.

The US also spends more money per student as a percent of its overall economy than the average OECD country; probably a more balanced way to look at it. The average OECD country spends about 6.3% of its GDP on education while the US shovels around 7.3% into our educational money pit.

These alarming and unfortunate stats raise one simple question: If the US spends more money than any other country, has more opportunity and access to gadgets, computers, the internet, and a myriad of other knowledge-inspiring devices, why is it not the world leader when it comes to test results? Taking a look at individual states inside the US and their correlation between spending and test results may shine some more light on this issue.

How do students in different states compare within the United States?

In Illinois, for example, the average salary for a teacher is around $59,000. The national average is around $54,000. With Illinois teachers receiving a little more than a 9% premium over the national average, one should expect that the students also perform better, have access to better materials, or at least are receiving some sort of benefit due to the extra public funds pouring into the state. In fact, towards the end of last year, the Federal Government gave Illinois another grant to bolster the STEM initiative in that state.

That pale apparently does not hold water. According to the ACT test scores for 2013, Illinois ranked 33rd out of 50 states in the composite score with a total of 20.6. That doesn’t speak well for the argument that we just need to throw more money at the education problem to make it better; however it also doesn’t necessarily prove it doesn’t work either.

There is definitely some correlation between teacher pay and test scores in many of the states. For example, in states like North Carolina, where teacher salaries are stagnant the students are struggling. While standard economic factors, like supply and demand, do play into the equation, the knee-jerk reaction to just throw more money at something that isn’t working is getting old. The government needs to take a deeper look at education and fix the multiple problems that exist outside of just simply paying teachers more.

At the end of the day, teachers are what drive our students to excellence. They are the ones who provide an environment conducive to learning, inspire, and educate our future leaders. We need to do them a favor and put resources into things that work, not necessarily just their pockets.

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