Education Spending Up 64% Under No Child Left Behind But Test Scores Improve Little

Elizabeth Harrington | September 26, 2011 | 3:26pm EDT
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Presuident Obama in a classroom, Friday, Sept. 23. (AP photo)

( – Although federal education spending has increased by nearly 64 percent since the inception of the No Child Left Behind education law, there has been little improvement in America’s test scores and an overall further diminishment of U.S. education on the world stage.

President Barack Obama unveiled his plan last week to grant waivers to states that cannot meet certain provisions in No Child Left Behind, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which Congress passed in 2001 and which set national standards for achievement in Public Schools.

No Child Left Behind requires schools to reach proficient levels of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) by 2014, which many states are currently far from reaching.

Ten years of living under No Child Left Behind has brought billions of dollars in increased appropriations to the U.S. Department of Education and no substantial progress in the education of America's public school students.

From 2000 to 2001, total appropriations for the Education Department increased by 9 percent.

By 2002, after No Child Left Behind was implemented, appropriations had increased by 33.6 percent, going from $42.1 billion in 2001 to $56.2 billion the following year, according to the Education Department. (See edhistory.pdf .)

The increase in funding from 2000 to 2010 was 63.8 percent, as the department saw an added $24.6 billion to its budget, according to the Education Department Web site.

In the year following implementation of No Child Left Behind, total mandatory and discretionary  spending for elementary and secondary schools jumped by $9.5 billion.

Prior to the law, total appropriations for the Department went up less than $3 billion per year.

According to the Education Department's Web site, the budget appropriations per year, in billions of dollars, were as follows:

1997 - $33.52 billion
1998 - $35.67 billion
1999 - $38.31 billion
2000 - $38.44 billion
2001 - $42.06 billion
2002 - $56.17 billion
2003 - $63.25 billion
2004 - $67.21 billion
2005 - $71.47 billion
2006 - $100.04 billion (due to a jump in Federal Family Education Loans)
2007 - $67.12 billion
2008 - $68.57 billion
2009 - $138.00 billion (regular spending of $39.88 billion plus $98.23 billion under the Recovery Act)
2010 - $63.00 billion

Under the current FY 2011 Continuing Resolution (CR), the department administers a budget of $69.9 billion. That amount would grow, under the president's Proposed 2012 budget, to $77.4 billion, if it were to become law.

But while federal education spending more than doubled between 1997 ($33.5 billion) and 2011 ($69.9 billion), education scores have not seen comparable leaps in results.

There has been no significant change in the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) findings for reading since 2002.

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan return to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland from Michigan on Tuesday, June 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Results from the Nation’s Report Card for Fourth Grade reading proficiency in 2002 found 38 percent below basic, 32 percent basic, 23 percent proficient and 6 percent advanced.  In 2009 for reading,  34 percent were below basic, 34 percent at basic, 24 percent at proficient and 7 percent at advanced.

For Eighth Grade reading, there has been no change in scores since 2002.  In 2002 and 2009, 26 percent were below basic proficiency, 43 percent achieved basic, 28 percent were proficient and 2 percent performed at an advanced level.

Mathematics scores, however, have steadily improved since 1990, owing no credit to NCLB.

The Nation’s Report Card for 4th grade public schools found 52 percent were below basic proficiency in math in 1990, 36 percent at basic level, 11 percent proficient and just 1 percent advanced.

In 2007, the percentage of students below proficiency in math dropped to 19 percent, the number of basic proficiency rose to 43 percent, proficient level to 33 percent and advanced to 5 percent.

Progress, however, grew stagnant between 2007 and 2009, with the exception of an increase of 1 percentage point in the advanced category. Eighth grade scores saw similar trends for math since 1990, with below basic levels dropping 20 points in 2009 (since 1990).

(AP Photo/file)

Overall, the United States was rated “average” by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2010, after conducting the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international test of reading, math and science administered on 15-year-olds.

“The U.S. effectively showed no improvement in reading since 2000,” the same period under the NCLB, according to an Education  Department blog posting last December, in response to the OECD findings. 

“Overall, the OECD’s rankings have U.S. students in 14th place in reading literacy among OECD nations,” the department wrote.

In Math, the U.S. ranked 25th among OECD nations.

But in 2000, when the PISA test was first administered, the U.S. ranked 15th in reading and 19th in math.

The department called these findings “sobering,” and took the opportunity to advance reforms.

“How much money the U.S. spends on education isn’t the problem,” the Department said at the time.  “We spend more per student than any nation in the PISA study except Luxembourg.”

The United States spent on average $10,499 per pupil in 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s proposed FY 2012 budget requested a total $77.4 billion for the department in discretionary spending and Pell Grants. The budget request failed in the Senate 0-97, in May.

Additionally, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -- the $820 billion economic stimulus bill -- included nearly $100 billion to states and school districts to “help address budget shortfalls,” according to the Web site

President Obama announced Friday that his administration would “implement a new educational system” while he awaits congressional reauthorization of the ESEA, according to a White House press release.

Under the plan he announced on Friday, the president will allow states to opt out of provisions of the law on condition of adopting approved policies of the Administration.

Exemptions will be granted for states that implement “state-led efforts to close achievement gaps, promote rigorous accountability, and ensure that all students are on track to graduate college and are career-ready,” while the president waits for its reauthorization, according to the White House.

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