19 September 2018

Education Funding in the U.S. and Around the World

Intro Copy

In February 2018, West Virginia teachers protested low wages and rising healthcare costs. Nine days later, they received a five percent pay raise. Was it over? Not a chance. A national teacher-led movement had begun. In the months that followed, teacher protests spread to several other states and districts, with the goal of increasing funding for education. Many have succeeded. Why the fuss over funding? Investment in public schools has dropped in a majority of states since the Great Recession hit in 2008. When adjusting for inflation, teacher salaries in many states are lower today than they were in 2000. Many teachers are taking second jobs, including ones in the sharing economy, to pay their bills. A majority of Americans agree that teachers are underpaid, according to a recent poll. Funding shortfalls are affecting other areas as well. Many schools lack supplies, forcing cash-strapped teachers to find ways to stock their classrooms. According to one survey, 94 percent of public school teachers bought supplies for their classrooms without reimbursement, spending nearly $500 a year on average. Many teachers have even turned to supply swaps and crowdfunding. Though big budgets don’t guarantee quality, it’s a difficult thing to achieve without them. Of course, spending public funds is a great responsibility that must be done with transparency, accountability, and efficiency, but research suggests that education does require such spending at a certain level to meet adequate learning outcomes. After all, states and countries with the best school systems tend to invest more in education. It's also an investment that's felt long term, perhaps best summed up by Benjamin Franklin: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
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