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The $130,000 Question

• ExcelinEd

According to the National Education Association—a group that, like clockwork, calls for more money to be spent on education—we spend more than $130,000 for each student to get a K-12 education. And in the NEA’s view, they want even more. But the Albuquerque Journal’s editorial board posed a few questions this morning:

Here’s a vital question for every candidate this election season who says New Mexico must increase education spending as the first, best and only way to raise dismal achievement and graduation rates:


Are you aware just how much we are spending now to get results that rank near the bottom nationally?


Here’s another important question for those candidates: How much will be enough?

New Mexico is a state that spends more than the national average, spending $11,019 every year for each student. But despite that high level of funding, their academic results are among our country’s lowest.

But even doubling school spending won’t make those students wealthy, or English language speakers, or urban dwellers. And it ignores the data that our poor students do worse than poor students in other states and our minority students do worse than students of similar race or ethnicity in other states. Even our rich, white kids do worse than rich, white kids in other states.

While it is indeed important, more money is not the answer. The better question is: How is this money being spent? As this chart shows, there are several states that made impressive academic gains without breaking the bank (see: Florida).

Blog post picture 05-15-14

This chart shows each state’s average point-gain on the fourth-grade reading exam on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for 1998-2013 (vertical line) and compares it to each state’s increase in per-pupil revenue for 1999-2011 (horizontal line).

By embracing a broad package of reforms, including school choice, transparency, and school accountability, Florida’s schools were able to improve student outcomes, and legislators avoided squandering taxpayer money.

New Mexico is now getting itself on the right track by using a comprehensive strategy of reform policies and practices to organize education in New Mexico around student learning. School achievement is on the rise. Schools are now graded on an A-F scale providing clarity to parents on school success and growth. The 2012 New Mexico Reads to Lead initiative continues to offer early reading interventions designed to meet the needs of K-3 students having reading difficulties as well as provide teachers with assessment tools to help identify struggling readers.  And New Mexico continues to excel on the Advanced Placement exams with New Mexico Hispanic students first in the nation for participation and success, low-income students ranking second in the nation and Native American students ranking third.

Read the rest of the Albuquerque Journal’s editorial.

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