Let’s Not Get Carried Away On Education Spending

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For the first time in generations, North Dakota has a growing population. A booming population, in the western part of the state, and that means local officials are demanding more money for education.

Some of the needs are real, though some are exaggerated. Case in point, after going into full-on alarmist mode about growing enrollment, public schools in Williston didn’t see nearly the increase they projected. In fact, Williston’s projected enrollment was off by 80%.

Still, though, school districts around the state are clamoring for more money. But those demands should be tempered by the fact that, even when enrollment in public schools in the state was in decline, the legislature was more than generous with funds.

Via Legislative Council, here’s the trend line for K-12 enrollment state wide, showing a decline ending after the 2007-2008 school year:

enrollment

And here’s the trend for state appropriations for K-12 education, showing an average biennial increase in total funds of more than 21%:

appropriations

Perhaps the funding build-up we accumulated when enrollment was declining can be used to defray the expense of growing enrollment now. That would make sense.

Of course, if we should know anything about sacred cows in government like education, spending goes up whether need is up or down.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • whowon

    and we just got an “F” in this report. Been throwing money at education forever, massive failure. They have been successful in brainwashing and indoctrination. http://www.studentsfirst.org/page/-/docs/sprc2013/2013_SF_SPRC_Executive_Summary.pdf

  • whowon
  • headward

    How about have incentive bonuses for schools on testing? If they do really poorly the union contract should say 15% reduction to pay and benefits until up to the standard. The 15% reduction can be the reduction of personnel.

  • Guest

    This study is nonsense. In North Dakota we spend less on education than most states with our teachers being consistently at the bottom of the pay scale nation wide. In terms of test scores for reading and math we are always in the top 15. So we get better results while having less funding than 40 of 50 states http://www.schoolfundingfairness.org/executivesummary.htm. Unfortunatlely the one size fits all solutions from the writers of the report don’t think we are set up properly according to their “ideas” on how all states should conduct business.

    • Guest

      I was responding to whowon’s post from the students first study not the main article.

    • Opinioniated

      I have a copy of sunshine on salaries, whose do you want. Teachers are doing quite well!

      • Guest

        I’m not whining that we pay teachers too little. You can look up the info and when you compare us to other states we spend much less on education and pay our teachers less. Yet we produce significantly better educated students than most. This study ranking North Dakota schools dead last is a joke and shows the political hackery of the people who made this study.

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    Schools don’t need more funding. They need more current funding. When schools are hit by a massive wave of new students, they need the money then, not a year later. The state should fund schools based on more immediate attendance. Some schools (like Watford City) are dealing with overcrowding that came on very quickly. It might be better to fund schools with quarterly payments or something based on day-to-day enrollment (which is collected by computer).

    Another thing to consider is shutting down districts. Here in the west there aren’t many districts left that could be closed, but the east still has a number of them. Closing districts, especially elementary districts, would distribute tax money more equitably and it would free teachers up.

    I’m teaching in the oil patch, so I do have some idea about the problems schools in the west face.

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