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An emerging consensus on school spending

QuickPoint!

The intellectual debate about school spending in Oregon is coming to a close. The numbers and analysis in Cascade’s Oregon K-12 Revenue and Expenditures, 1990-2001 were largely confirmed by a report from the Oregon School Board Association (OSBA), done by economic consulting firm ECONorthwest.

Both studies found that by common methods of counting expenditures Oregon’s per pupil spending in 2000-01 was between $8,000 and $9,000. Oregon ranks well above the national average in education spending.

“This additional spending essentially funds higher relative compensation for system staff primarily in the form of higher than average benefits. Relative to neighbor states, Oregon also has a greater number of non-teacher staff per teacher,” concludes the OSBA report.

On average Oregon school districts have more resources now, after adjusting for inflation, than they did a decade ago. Despite more money, schools continue to suffer from almost yearly fiscal crises, and graduation rates and scores on national exams have not improved. The numbers suggest that providing more money to schools, as we’ve done for decades now, will not lead to better performance.

On the other hand, countless studies have documented the positive role that competition, choice and freedom can have in education. As the Oregonian editorialized on December 7, “[I]t’s time for Oregon to question how we’ve managed to spend this much money on adults, and still short-changed students.”

Nick Weller is an education policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

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