by Robert Maynard
Frequent True North contributor Martin Harris has written often about how low pupil teachers ratios are driving high school costs with no real impact on school performance. Now, Vermont Digger’s Ann Galloway has picked up the theme in an article citing a local study pointing to the same conclusion:
The report, conducted by Art Woolf and Dick Heaps of Northern Economic Consulting, looks at Vermont’s education spending trends.
Woolf and Heaps say that Vermont’s overall school spending was 20 percent above the national average 15 years ago; now it is 70 percent above the average. The two consultants compared education spending and health care expenditures to median family income growth. Total spending on education in 2011 was $1.5 billion; health care cost the state $5 billion that year. The gross state product was $26 billion in 2011.
“Vermont spends a lot more than other states in the U.S., and the gap has been growing since the late 1990s,” Woolf said.
Vermont’s low student to teacher ratio (9.4 students per teacher) is the biggest cost driver, Woolf said. The national average is 16 to 1. Though Vermont school boards pay below average salaries to teachers, the state’s per pupil spending was about $18,571 — the second highest level in the nation, according to a 2013 National Education Association report. The national average was about $11,068.
The problem with the drive for smaller class sizes is that the evidence does not confirm that they improve educational sesults, as Hoover Institute Senior Fellw Eric A. Hanushek has points out in his book “The Evidence on Class Size.”