In the comments to a recent post a regular commenter pointed out an interesting graph of the relationship between increased real expenditure in education and students’ test scores. It probably won’t surprise you that there isn’t one. Test scores have plateaued while real spending per student and overall have skyrocketed.
I think there are a number of reasons for this. The first reason is that today we have something more nearly resembling universal education than ever before. Seventy, sixty, or even fifty years ago, we didn’t even attempt to educate quite a number of prospective students. They were warehoused. They were simply invisible. Today we do attempt to educate them and it’s very, very expensive. Their presence still isn’t reflected in the test scores because they don’t take the tests but their presence is reflected in increased spending.
Seventy years ago in many cases the education of African American or Hispanic students was perfunctory at best. The state today of the education of all of our students can be and is hotly debated but in my view the strides that have been made in extending education to all of our children are enormous, phenomenal. That this change isn’t reflected in the overall test scores may be an artifact of the process by which students are tested or it may even represent a triumph.
However, the third and, probably, the most significant reason is Gammon’s Law, about which I posted in one of my earliest posts here at The Glittering Eye. In a bureaucratic system, increase in expenditure will be matched by fall in production.
Gammon’s Law isn’t observed only in education. We’re seeing it in healthcare as well, where outputs per input have been falling for decades. That that is the case goes a long way to explaining why healthcare costs are rising everywhere, not just in the United States.
That isn’t to say that we aren’t seeing advances in healthcare. We are. But the costs are rising very, very sharply.