Education funding isn't always paying off

September 05, 2001|By Gregory Kane

UTAH. That's where you wanna be, baby. Wonderful state. Or maybe you might find North Dakota to your liking. And how do Iowa and Nebraska sound?

Those are four states you might move to, if you care about a) your child's education and b) how much that education costs you in tax dollars, based on the expenditure per student in elementary and secondary schools.

The data are contained in the "Report Card on American Education," an assessment of how the states rank in educational achievement. The report is put out each year by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a bipartisan, 2,400-member association of state legislators. The council is committed to free markets, individual liberty and limited government, which means there can't be many liberal Democrats in the bunch.

But who would want to leave a wonderful town like Baltimore and relocate to Utah, North Dakota, Iowa or Nebraska? Ah, Baltimore, where 80 percent of the population goes to bed by 10 and the remaining 20 percent you wish to high heaven would go to bed by 10. Baltimore, where the education level is, well, uh, is -- let's just say it's not like that in Utah, North Dakota, Iowa or Nebraska.

All four states scored pretty high on the booby index. What, you're no doubt asking, is a booby index? Read closely now. If you're from places like Mississippi, Louisiana or the District of Columbia, this might get tricky.

ALEC ranked all 50 states and D.C. academically based on results of a number of standardized tests. Iowa came in first, Nebraska was sixth, North Dakota No. 14 and Utah No. 16. Mississippi came in last. The District of Columbia was just above Mississippi, and Louisiana was number 49.

Then, ALEC ranked each state based on its expenditure per student. D.C. came in fifth, socking it to residents for a whopping $8,055 per student. Mississippi was 50th in per-student expenditure -- $4,377 -- which means the state isn't teaching its students a darn thing but at least it's not charging Mississippians much to do nothing. Louisiana ranked 39th in pre-pupil expenditure -- at $5,503.

No. 1 in academics, Iowa ranked 32nd in per-student expenditure, with a $5,725 figure. Utah was 51st with $3,807, North Dakota 48th at $4,597 and Nebraska 34th with $5,645.

The booby index is computed by subtracting a state's place in the academic ranking from its place in the expenditure ranking. The resulting figure shows which state's taxpayers got the most bang for their education buck. In this case, that would be Utah, with a booby index ranking of 35. North Dakota was next at 34, Iowa was third with a 31 and Nebraska fourth with a 28.

The District of Columbia brought up the rear in the booby index with a score of -45. Louisiana notched a -10 and Mississippi a -1. Oklahomans had the distinction, dubious though it may be, of posting a ranking of 37 in both academics and expenditures. With a booby index of 0, Oklahoma represents the only state whose residents got exactly what they paid for in public education.

How did we Marylanders fare? We're a dull state, hence we got mediocre results. Maryland ranked 24th in academics. Our liberal Democratic state legislature had taxpayers shell out $7,059 per student. That was 13th among all states and D.C., giving us a booby index of -11. We tied with Connecticut. But consider: Mississippi and Louisiana, ranked near the bottom academically, scored higher than Maryland on the booby index. Call Louisiana and Mississippi taxpayers poorly educated. Call Maryland taxpayers suckers.

The higher a state's score on the booby index, the more taxpayers got for their education dollar. Consider the number an indication of how much residents of each state got chumped by their legislators. Marylanders got chumped big time, but liberal Democrats run this state. We should be used to that. Now that readers have been advised which states give them the best value for the education dollar, a list of states to avoid might be in order.

Pennsylvania came in with a booby index of -33. New York and New Jersey scored -28 and -24, respectively. Rhode Island had a -26 and West Virginia a -24.

The 10 states ranking highest in the booby index are, in descending order, Utah, North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Missouri and Nevada. D.C. ranked at the bottom, followed in ascending order by Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Michigan, Georgia and South Carolina.

Conservatives won't resist noting that nine of the top 10 booby index states went for the Republican, George W. Bush, in the last presidential election. D.C. and six of nine states at the bottom went for the Democrat, Al Gore.

Just a tidbit to keep in mind the next time a Democrat comes around suggesting that the solution to education problems is to pump more dollars into schools.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.