Life, Liberty, Property #22: education spending is up, but achievement is down, showing very little correlation with performance.
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Education Spending Up, Achievement Down
- First, They Came for the Gender-Confused …
- Seventy-Four Million Terrorists
Education Spending Up, Achievement Down
Once again, academic achievement scores for American children are down. And once again spending is up.
The newly released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for 13-year-olds for the 2022-2023 school year show a four-point decline in reading ability and a nine-point decrease in mathematics skills since the previous assessment, in 2019-2020. Those numbers on “The Nation’s Report Card” are, respectively, seven points and 14 points below the scores U.S. children achieved 10 years ago—decreases of about 2.7 percent and 4.9 percent.
The proportion of students who said they read for fun is the lowest ever measured: “the percentage of 13-year-old students who reported reading for fun almost every day was lower in 2023 than in all previous assessment years,” the report states. Barely half as many students read for pleasure daily as did so 10 years ago:
The report is careful to note that the figures cannot establish causality, though the results show reading for pleasure is clearly associated with higher achievement. “Fifty-one percent of 13-year-old students scoring at or above the 75th percentile in 2023 reported that they read for fun on their own time at least once a week, whereas 28 percent of 13-year-old students scoring below the 25th percentile reported doing so,” the report states.
(Here are the boring methodological details: the results “reflect the performance of a nationally representative sample of 8,700 thirteen-year-olds in each subject. Performance comparisons are based on statistically significant differences between assessment years and between groups,” reports the National Center for Education Statistics, which conducts the NAEP.)
The most recent data, for the 2020-2021 school year, show the nationwide average spending per K-12 student was $14,347, up from $13,501 in fiscal year 2020 and $10,608 a decade earlier, according to Education Week. That is about a 14.3 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Here’s what the trend in reading scores for 2012 to the present looks like:
And here’s the trend in math scores for 2012 to the present:
Here’s what the spending trend for that period looks like:
Source: Education Week
Higher spending, worse achievement.
Despite the numbers showing spending is up and achievement down, people still commonly argue that more money will fix the nation’s broken education system:
Higher spending on education correlates with higher economic outcomes for students. A study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics revealed that “a 10% increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school leads to 0.31 more completed years of education, about 7% higher wages, and a 3.2 percentage point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty” (Jackson et al., 2016).
That may sound encouraging. However, a 10 percent increase per year for 12 years is more than a tripling of spending over that period. (If it was not compounded in the original study, which I could not verify, that’s still more than double the spending.) The improvements observed in that study don’t appear very impressive in that light. Moreover, the writer uses the word “correlates,” because the numbers cannot show that the (very large) spending increases caused the (meh) increases in wages, etc. That makes the increased spending an even worse investment.
As the numbers show once again, our education system is broken. Spending up, achievement down.
First, They Came for the Gender-Confused …
In a continuing effort to impose the leftward-most agenda in the nation, California lawmakers are considering allowing the state government to take children as young as age 12 out of their homes without their parents’ consent in cases of disagreement over whether the child should be given time to adjust to his or her genetically determined sex.
I’ve worded that very carefully, to ensure accuracy. What it means in short is that the government wants to take forcible custody of children who feel confusion about their sexual identity.
As always, there is an ostensible crisis behind the proposal. In this case it is the premise that troubled adolescents will commit suicide in massive numbers if the government refrains from interfering when parents choose alternatives to “gender-affirming” treatments and surgery—the “live daughter or dead son” argument. The bill proposes forcing parents to give up their children to the all-knowing and supremely empathetic people of the state government, The Washington Free Beacon reports:
California Democrats on Tuesday advanced legislation to let mental health professionals remove children from their homes and place them in state custody without parental consent.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Assembly Bill 665 on a party-line vote. The bill would allow poor children as young as age 12 to check into state-run youth shelters on the unconditional say-so of a therapist or counselor.
The bill does not mention transgender identity, yet it would certainly cover situations for those services and is obviously directed toward that purpose. State senator Scott Wiener (D), a coauthor of the bill, has also offered a bill “to make parents’ non-affirmation of their child’s transgender identity grounds for revoking or limiting custody” and wrote legislation enacted last year “empowering California courts to take temporary jurisdiction of kids who come to California from out of state in search of hormone therapy or other transition treatment,” the Free Beacon reports.
Interestingly, in public statements Wiener and the coauthor of AB 665 insist “that they simply seek to give all children equal access to mental health services, as privately insured minors from age 12 can already receive outpatient therapy without parental consent,” the Free Beacon reports. “The bill would only apply to kids on Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program that provides health coverage to eligible low-income residents.”
Wiener and other proponents of the bill are thus taking great care to hide what the legislation really is: a radical and fundamental violation of people’s freedom of association. One of the most basic forms of association is the family, and the government has no right to interfere in family matters except in cases that are in themselves fundamentally criminal. Here the government is intent on pushing its nose into fraught, agonizing family situations about which it knows nothing.
As I noted in LLP #15, people in government are increasingly arguing that children belong to everybody, not their parents. President Joe Biden has said so multiple times. That is a pernicious doctrine. If your children belong to everybody, then the only way for us—the public, your children’s true owners—to exercise proper authority over them is to authorize our representatives—the government—to decide on everything that pertains to them. It gives all power over children to the state.
In practical terms, you can exercise authority over your children only until the government decides that you are wrong.
That means you have no authority at all over your children. The moment the government dislikes how you are supposedly raising them, the police can forcibly remove your children from your home, even if there is no foundation whatsoever for the claim. This happens all the time, and it is outrageous. It is not a matter of erring on the side of caution; it is plain and simple despotism.
The proposed California law extends this trend to a new realm: sexual identity. The bill is wrong because the premise on which it is based is wrong. The bill is fundamentally destructive and a violation of people’s basic rights.
That is why the bill’s proponents are trying to characterize it as an equal-access matter: to hide its real premise behind a benign veneer.
Political analysts often argue that states where one political party controls both the executive and legislative branches, known as one-party states or government trifectas, are particularly disposed to get out of control and enact laws and policies that go far beyond what even most of the majority party’s supporters want. AB 665 is a vivid example of that. The proponents of the bill evidently know that a large proportion of the very people who voted for them would not support it if they knew what it is really about.
Those voters are right, and they should be concerned about the kind of mind that comes up with these ideas. After the government comes for the children embroiled in heart-rending struggles with their parents over how to handle very natural confusions about sexual identity, they will come after yours. It will happen far sooner than you think.
Seventy-Four Million Terrorists
A committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is pondering whether to eliminate a program the Department of Homeland Security is using to monitor and encourage the harassment and impoverishment of people who disagree with positions and policies of the Biden administration. NewsBusters reports:
Today, the House Appropriations Committee voted to zero out the funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s nefarious “Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention” (TVTP) grant program from the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill 2024.
The article cites a report by the Media Research Center (MRC, publisher of NewsBusters) explaining the program:
Last month, MRC Free Speech America released a groundbreaking report providing definitive proof that the Department of Homeland Security had weaponized its $40 million taxpayer-funded anti-terrorism grant program in an effort to destroy conservatives, Christians, and the Republican Party. Instead of focusing on preventing actual violence and terrorism, the program is now being used to specifically target the entire spectrum of the political right and Christians through “media literacy and online critical thinking initiatives” and other so-called training seminars as part of a coordinated effort to make America into a one-party system.
“[A] a chart used by DHS and its grantee in a training program equates mainstream groups with militant neo-Nazis … ,” the MRC report states.
You’ve may have already seen the chart, which vividly shows how the DHS program targets ordinary Americans by associating them with neo-Nazis and other far-fringe organizations:
For those of us who are unfamiliar with some of those logos, the MRC report identifies a few of them:
Among the organizations and movements displayed on the pyramid were the Republican Party (RNC), The Heritage Foundation, the American Conservative Union, Fox News, Breitbart News, the National Rifle Association (NRA), PragerUniversity, Tea Party Patriots, the MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement, the pro-police Blue Lives Matter movement and the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Also on the pyramid, as if somehow comparable to the aforementioned reputable organizations and movements, were rabidly hateful groups like the militant neo-Nazi gang The Base and pro-Nazi publication The Daily Stormer.
The DHS knew exactly what it was getting when it made this grant, the report notes: “This chart was among others included in the original grant application submitted by the University of Dayton to DHS to successfully secure TVTP funding.”
The chart was much more than just a rhetorical device but was in fact a call for direct action against the Biden administration’s political opponents: “University of Cincinnati researcher Michael Loadenthal, a self-proclaimed member of a radical, anti-American Antifa group,” presented that graphic at a seminar by a DHS grantee under the program. Addressing the gathering, Loadenthal “explained how ‘antifascists’ could ‘pressure financial services’ like ‘GoFundMe, Patreon, PayPal, Venmo’ and others or ‘pressure retailers’ like Amazon and ‘service providers’ like ‘AirBnB’ and ‘Tinder’ in order to ‘kick people off,’” the MRC report notes.
At other seminars, Loadenthal recommended people “‘infiltrate’ social media platforms to ‘identify targets, create dossiers … surveil, interfere, misdirect [and] disrupt’ those the left opposes,” the report states. Other speakers at the DHS-funded seminars compared the Trump administration to the Khmer Rouge (which killed 1.7 million people in Cambodia in the 1970s) and said Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida might conduct a Holocaust via a volunteer force created to help the National Guard during public emergencies such as hurricanes.
Director of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas is under fire in Congress for alleged dereliction of duty in failing to secure the nation’s southern border, and Congressman Clay Higgins (R-LA) has introduced articles of impeachment against him. Heading a government agency that asserts a direct line between the opposition political party and terrorist groups is an equally impeachable offense.
That applies to Mayorkas’ boss as well.