In October, the Marietta Daily Journal published an article I wrote about Common Core, Common Core is No Path to Prosperity. Subsequently, Politifact ran a piece examining my comments about Georgia’s aggregate spending on education. They confirmed that, indeed, Georgia does spend in the top ten on education in the nation. Click here to review the U.S. Census data on that. The Politifact article went onto discuss per pupil spending by state – a topic that I did not address. Their point was that if one reviews per pupil spending, Georgia’s ranking drops significantly. They further indicate that ranking drops, “when adjusted for regional costs of living…”. The citation embedded in their article for this claim doesn’t given the adjusted per pupil data, rank or methodology used for adjusting the figures. It’s fair to assume that their per pupil spending data is adjusted using CPI information by region (their stated level of adjustment).
I was pleased that Politifact noted that my fact on aggregate spending was correct. Pursuant to their further critique, they would have preferred I discuss per pupil spending. The main reason I did not discuss per pupil spending is there are significant differences in the wage structures for education professionals and their benefits between states. The largest components of costs in K-12 education are salaries and benefits so adjusting each state relative to each other would be necessary for an accurate comparison.
I downloaded the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most current Occupational Employment Statistics to gather salary/wage data for each state. I isolated those occupational profile codes specific to K-12 education in each state. I averaged these wages to determine an average salary. I then compared this average salary to Georgia’s average salary. As you would expect, some states have significantly higher salaries than Georgia. These states are often those that we think of as having a higher cost of living. For example, adjusted against Georgia’s salaries, New York’s educational salaries are 31% higher; Massachusetts are 17% higher.
After developing a measure between Georgia and every other state, I used this to adjust each state’s per pupil spending relative to Georgia’s and then ranked the states’ adjusted per pupil spending. The result is that Georgia’s per pupil spending is in the middle of the pack. We rank 25th in per pupil spending on instruction and 28th in total per pupil spending.
I’ll leave you with this. Every state that borders Georgia has a higher graduation rate. And, every state that borders Georgia spends less per pupil than Georgia. You can go west to Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas and you will find that they too, also have a higher graduation rate and all but Louisiana spend less per pupil than Georgia.