Special interests boost education spending, but hurt students and teachers

Last month, after many delays, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released the 2021 academic achievement assessment results. The result was amazing. More than 47% of second-year junior high school students are not fluent in reading, and 78% are below the math grade level. ..

This trend shows that student performance has dropped dramatically compared to two years ago. But even the pre-pandemic numbers were unacceptably low, leaving more than half of our students behind.

This dire performance cannot be blamed for lack of funding.

Nathan Benefield

In 2019-20, the Pennsylvania school district received over $ 19,000 per student. This fund is ranked 7th in the country. Even progressive education law centers are giving Pennsylvania an A at its overall funding level.

In context, $ 19,000 per student is worth $ 380,000 for a class of 20 students and $ 570,000 for a classroom of 30 students.

So where does this money go?

It’s certainly not just about teacher salaries. According to the National Education Association, Pennsylvania’s average teacher salary is $ 71,500, the 11th highest in the country (more when adjusted for living expenses), but this is only part of the spending.


One of the largest and fastest growing categories of school spending is pensions. School district pension contributions have increased by $ 3.5 billion over the last decade. This is a staggering increase of 533%.

Most of them belong to the cost of repayment of “unfunded debt” or pension debt. While bad policy making created this debt, the special interests of education (including teachers’ union executives) were exactly the architects behind those bad policies.

The Pennsylvania Education Association (PSEA) has long opposed pension reform, even if it has obvious benefits to teachers and taxpayers. They erroneously claimed that there was no crisis and that stock market growth would eliminate pension debt.

Result: The current employer’s contribution rate (school district, more precisely the amount the taxpayer must pay) is 35.26 percent of salary.

That’s $ 25,160 for all school teachers.

If Pennsylvania had a 401K-style plan for teachers (by definition, no debt), with a generous 6% match, the school district could raise teachers’ salaries by $ 20,000 and leave money behind. increase.

But PSEA’s lies have delayed the long-awaited pension reform. It cost taxpayers billions of dollars, damaging the teachers they represent themselves.

Quantity rather than quality

This is not the only way teachers union executives can harm teachers, students and taxpayers.

Teachers union executives prefer to increase the number of members paying membership fees rather than increasing teacher salaries. Over the last two decades, public schools have added 13,000 employees, despite a 7% decline in enrollment.

The union’s policy agenda hurt teachers and hurt students. Many studies have shown that the most important factor in education is the quality of teachers.

Instead, union executives continue to promote smaller classes and universal preschools, despite little benefit in class size and new research showing that universal preschools are a net negative. I am.

Construction, debt, lobbying

Of course, teachers’ unions are not the only special interest that drives costs.

Those concerned about “benefits from public education” should investigate construction companies and fixed income lawyers. The leaders of the school district union pay extra for school construction through general wage obligations.

The school district spent $ 4.2 billion on construction and debt in 2019-20, an increase of 50% over a 10-year period. As with rising pension costs, rising debt repayments do not educate children.

But that’s not the worst example. To encourage that overspending, the school district spends millions of dollars on hiring lobbyists who encourage state governments to spend high taxes and spending.

Two recent federal fund reports tracked more than $ 10 million in school districts paid to lobbying associations and millions more to hire contract lobbyists.

These groups not only demand more spending, but also oppose parental choices. These taxpayer-funded lobbyists are working to kill charter schools and tax credit scholarship programs. It educates students at a small cost.

The special benefits of benefiting from public schools led by teachers’ union executives are pushing up taxpayers’ costs. But not all of that extra spending is helping our children and teachers. In fact, many do not reach the “students” that Pennsylvania spends.

There is a need for a new educational agenda that prioritizes parents, students and teachers over special interests and Harrisburg lobbyists.

Nathan Benefield is Senior Vice President of the Federal Fund, a free market think tank in Pennsylvania.

Special interests boost education spending, but hurt students and teachers

Source link Special interests boost education spending, but hurt students and teachers

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