There was a long, hard fought battle over public school spending in Texas during the 82nd Legislative Session, specifically over whether Texas needed to continue to grow its education budget. Proponents of increased spending insisted, and continue to insist, that increasing state spending will result in improved public education performance. The Texas Public Policy Foundation has been saying for some time that spending does not necessarily equate to success. Now it appears that idea is gaining traction world-wide.

This article in The Economist, entitled “The Great Schools Revolution”, points to a number of ideas that are taking hold globally in education reform, one of which is that the argument for more spending has not proven to be the most productive approach to improved education performance:

“The idea that good schooling is about spending money is the one that has been beaten back hardest. Many of the 20 leading economic performers in the OECD [a group of the world’s most developed countries] doubled or tripled their education spending in real terms between 1970 and 1994, yet outcomes in many countries stagnated-or went backwards. Educational performance varies widely even among countries that spend similar amounts per pupil. Such spending is highest in the United States-yet America lags behind other developed countries on overall outcomes in secondary education. Andreas Schleicher, head of analysis at PISA [Programme for International Student Assessment], thinks that only about 10% of the variation in pupil performance has anything to do with money.”

The article goes on to say that a number of factors influence education quality, not least of which are “non-classroom” factors, such as national culture and social class. What it is very clear on, though, is that money is not the path to academic glory. Proponents for increased education spending in Texas should take this kind of research into account before insisting on tapping as many dollars as we can for public education in our state, particularly with a potentially worse budget situation looming for Texas in 2013.

– James Golsan