Tough financial times often force people to make tough financial choices.
It’s a hardship, but also an opportunity to evaluate past choices and make better spending decisions for the future.
So now, as the state education system is forced to reckon with the fiscal challenges of the coronavirus, it might be a good time for them to take a close look at whether they’re really spending as efficiently and effectively as they could.
According to testimony presented Thursday by the Empire Center to the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committees, New York really needs to take the opportunity to examine its education spending.
New York spends more per student on education than any state, or even any country. Even after cutting school spending by 20%, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed last year, the state would hold onto that dubious honor.
Over the past 20 years, state spending on education has rocketed. From 2011-2019, the Empire Center testified, state aid to schools increased 41%, while the Consumer Price Index only went up 14%. Had state education aid followed the rate of inflation, New Yorkers could have saved nearly $6 billion in just the current fiscal year.
You’d think spending more than any other state on education would be reflective in the results. But even as state spending on education has continued to rise, it has not been met with a complementary increase in achievement.
According to a report released last year by Education Week magazine looking at 39 categories, New York’s education system ranked eighth in the country.
But when factoring only achievement, based on 18 measures related to reading and math performance, high school graduation rates and the results of Advanced Placement (AP) exams, New York ranked 21st, right smack in the middle of the pack.
Another survey conducted by the financial services firm WalletHub in July, using 29 key metrics, ranked New York as the 24th best school system in the country, 23rd in quality.
So while the state is looking at how to fund education this year and in coming years, it needs to take a hard look at whether it’s just throwing good money after bad. What are other states that spend less per student and that achieve higher results doing that New York isn’t? And in what ways can New York adopt some of those practices to lower costs and improve the quality of our students’ education?
Rather than view the latest fiscal situation as a crisis, lawmakers, educators, state education officials and school boards need to look at the costs and results make changes for the better.
State taxpayers should expect better results from their education dollar.
Not only should they expect it, they have an obligation and a right to speak up and demand it.