Let me start, as Mitchell does, by re-posting a graphic I must have posted a dozen times since 2013 when Cato published this. This is about the costs of education vs the improvements in test scores.
You can see that total cost almost tripled, the total number of employees almost doubled while test scores were not affected at all. Unless you're immune to measured data, you have to agree that no matter what we spend on education, it doesn't affect test scores. There's no discernible positive trend such that someone could say "we only tripled what we spent, the data says we need to spend six times more" or any other number. It's just as valid to say that since whatever we spend doesn't make a difference let's just not spend anything at all or let's cut spending to 1/10 of its current level and send the administrative staff home. As Daniel Mitchell says, Andrew Coulson produced a graphic here that is probably more vivid and more telling than the vast majority of graphics you'll come across.
I mentioned some things jumped off the page at me, here's a paragraph from a paper Mitchell references:
Since World War II, inflation-adjusted spending per student in American public schools has increased by 663 percent. Where did all of that money go? One place it went was to hire more personnel. Between 1950 and 2009, American public schools experienced a 96 percent increase in student population. During that time, public schools increased their staff by 386 percent – four times the increase in students. The number of teachers increased by 252 percent, over 2.5 times the increase in students. The number of administrators and other staff increased by over seven times the increase in students. …This staffing surge still exists today. From 1992 to 2014 – the most recent year of available data – American public schools saw a 19 percent increase in their student population and a staffing increase of 36 percent. This decades-long staffing surge in American public schools has been tremendously expensive for taxpayers, yet it has not led to significant changes in student achievement. For example, public school national math scores have been flat (and national reading scores declined slightly) for 17-year-olds since 1992.I've long known of the number of employees virtually doubling (as shown in the above graphic), but had not seen the details of the number of teachers going up 2.5 times the increase in the number of students while administrators, helpers and other staff increased seven times the increase in students.
Doubtless, you've heard statistics like 0% of graduating high school students in Baltimore are proficient at math. That may be an extreme example but the trend is sadly not unusual. Nationwide, only about a third of eighth graders do math or read at their grade level.
When I read things like the LA teacher's union saying they won't allow the schools to open until officials adopt absurd changes like closing charter schools, defunding the police, and creating medicare for all it helps explain why the expenditures keep going up for no return. After all, if they want those things, are they intelligent enough to teach children?
When I was in my 20s, it wasn't unusual to hear retirees my current age saying "why am I paying taxes for schools that I don't use?" The stereotype answer was that schools provide an educated public which benefits us all, so you're getting benefits from that tax money. It's more and more apparent that we're getting essentially nothing for our money.
As the modern saying goes, if taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society, I want my money back.