Debunking the Big Lie in Education Funding

Image by Darkmoon_Art from Pixabay

by DJ Rippert

The big lie. Various intellectuals, aided and abetted by the mainstream media, have repeatedly put forth the falsehood that funding for public K-12 education in America has been decreasing. In fact, the opposite is true.  However, the number of times that false claims about defunding public education have been made, published and (eventually) retracted / corrected leaves one wondering whether these are uninformed errors or an effort to repeat a “big lie” in the hope that Americans will come to accept the lie.

Falsehood. Publication. Eventual correction. Repeat. An Op-Ed piece in the Washington Examiner penned by Corey DeAngelis documents disturbing cases of factual errors about education funding made by so-called experts and published by so-called professional news outlets. In each case, the error was eventually corrected. However, those corrections were made days after the original false statement.

Robert Pianta, the dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia:

False statement …  “public funding for schools has actually decreased since the late 1980s.”

Publication … Washington Post (is anybody surprised?)

Correction (8 days later) … ” … Correction: An earlier version of this piece stated that, adjusting for constant dollars, public funding for schools had decreased since the late 1980s. This is not the case. In fact, funding at the federal, state and local levels has increased between the 1980s and 2019.

Pricilla Murolo, Labor History professor, Sarah Lawrence College:

False statement … “drastic cuts to funding over the last few decades” in education.

Publication … Philadelphia Inquirer

Correction … “This story has been changed because a previous version mischaracterized changes in public education funding. Education funding has increased over the last decade in Pennsylvania, but costs have outpaced those increases in many school districts across the state.”

The Examiner Op-Ed goes on to cite two more false statements about education funding published in the Washington Post and one in the New York Times.

Reality. Inflation adjusted, per student spending on K-12 public education has increased by 280% since 1960. While some will find that increase in funding positive, others will not. A Stanford University survey of over 400 studies linking education spending to educational results found, ” … there is not a strong or consistent relationship between student performance and school resources. …” If insanity can be defined as trying the same thing over and over again while expecting different results then the approach to K-12 education in the US is clearly insane.

Other issues. While there is no excuse for so-called experts mangling the facts, there are legitimate issues within the K-12 public education system. For example, Benjamin Scafidi observed that between 1992 and 2014, real education spending per pupil increased by 27%, whereas real teacher salaries dropped by 2%.  How can this be? Scafidi further noted that from FY 1950 to FY 2015, student populations increased by 100%, teachers by 243% while non-teaching staff increased by 702%. (Figure E-1)

America’s schools are not underfunded, they are mismanaged. Too much of the constantly increasing funding is going to administrative bloat and too little is being focused on the classroom. This is entirely the fault of BigEd at the federal, state and local level. The next time a member of your local school board starts rambling on about Critical Race Theory ask them what efforts are being made to reduce overhead and use the freed up funds to bolster classroom learning. Your question will undoubtedly be met by slack-jawed, sloe-eyed silence.