Tuesday, April 23, 2002

The Volokh Brothers

EDUCATION SPENDING: Friday over lunch the question of education spending came up again; and I was reminded of an interesting statistical question -- what is the ratio, adjusted for inflation, of per-pupil spending in, say, 1959-60, compared to 1999-2000?

Whenever I ask this, someone nearly always says "Oh, spending back then was much greater than it is now" (again, adjusting for inflation). Well, if you go to the 2001 Digest of Education Statistics, table 167, you see the answer: Per pupil spending, in 2000-01 dollars, was $2235 in 1959-60, and $7591 in 1999-2000. Spending has risen by a factor of 3.3 in the last 40 years.

In the absence of strong evidence to the contrary, one can always assume that government spending on anything has increased per capita (and for all I know per stirpes), adjusted for inflation, and adjusted for anything you can think of (plus 10%).

Yet people rarely mention this obvious fact.

It is particularly amusing to mention this when people are wailing about massive service cuts and you discover that spending next year will be higher than spending this year ad infinitum.

As for education reform:

The Graves of Academe

"AFTER SOBER and judicious consideration, and weighing one thing against another in the interests of reasonable compromise, H. L. Mencken concluded that a startling and dramatic improvement in American education required only that we hang all the professors and burn down the schools. His uncharacteristically moderate proposal was not adopted. Those who actually knew more about education than Mencken did could see that his plan was nothing more than cosmetic and would in fact provide only an outward appearance of improvement. Those who knew less, on the other hand, had somewhat more elaborate plans of their own, and they just happened to be in charge of the schools."
--Richard Mitchell (The Underground Grammarian).