DOE Projects Further Increases in Federal K–12 Spending

Published November 29, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced federal spending on K–12 schools is projected to reach record highs in the next 12 years.

“Current expenditures (e.g., instruction and support services) for public elementary and secondary education are projected to increase 21 percent in constant dollars (adjusted for inflation) between school years 2011–12, the last year of actual data, and 2024–25,” reports DOE’s “Projections of Education Statistics to 2024,” published in September. 

DOE also predicts per-pupil spending will increase in inflation-adjusted dollars.

“Current expenditures per pupil in fall enrollment in constant 2013–14 dollars increased 15 percent from 1999–2000 to 2011–12 and are projected to increase 13 percent, to $12,500, from 2011–12 to 2024–25,” the publication reports.

‘Tremendous Growth’ in Spending

Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow in education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, says the U.S. taxpayer has not received a good return on education spending, in terms of student achievement.

“Money matters as an expenditure issue,” Robinson said. “If you look at the facts, between 1930 and 2015, you have tremendous growth in the amount of money the federal government spends on K–12 education. Yet, between 1970 and 2015, you see a relatively flat return rate.

“If we have a dedicated amount of money, we have to be smart about making sure that it goes to places that we know it matters,” Robinson said. “I just don’t think we have been very smart on holding our federal funds stream accountable.”

Big Spending ‘Nothing New’

Terry Stoops, director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation, says throwing more money at the system has not and will not solve the nation’s education problems.

“At this point, one would think that the American people would have realized that we cannot spend our way to a world-class system of public schools,” Stoops said. “Unfortunately, most Americans believe that we don’t spend enough on our public schools. The fact that so many people believe that funding is insufficient while paying very little attention to performance and the actual returns on that investment means that there isn’t any end in sight for the [increases in] money we spend on our public schools.

“And this is nothing new,” Stoops said. “We have been hearing complaints of insufficient funding for well over a century, and it is used as one way to explain our inability to raise student achievement. You would think at some point that we will start seeing returns on that investment, but instead we have seen relatively flat performance from the 1970s.”

Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.


U.S. Department of Education, “Projections of Education Statistics to 2024,” September 2016: