Those who prefer tax increases to spending cuts rely on the tried-and-true tactic of claiming that any spending reduction will take food from the needy and quality education away from children. That's the justification being used for
Taxpayers shouldn't buy this logic. State government spending--and, in particular, spending on education--has ballooned in recent years. There is plenty of room to cut without sacrificing essential programs or hurting education quality.
For fiscal year 2011, states are expected to face a combined budget shortfall of about
The increases between 2003 and 2008 came on top of previous record-setting spending hikes. State and local government spending was
Much of that money was spent on education. In 2006, states and localities spent
Unfortunately, there is little evidence that this additional spending has bought higher quality education. During the decades of booming education spending, reading achievement has stagnated, math performance has barely improved, and our graduation rate has hovered below 75 percent.
What increased state and local government spending has bought are more government workers. Between 1998 and 2008, the number of full-time equivalent state and local workers grew from 14.5 million to 16.7 million. More than half of those new workers were related to education. Growth in the number of teachers has far outstripped growth in the student population. In 1970, there were 22.3 students per teacher. By 1985, there were 17.9. And as of 2007, the student-per-teacher ratio reached 15.5.
Yet states and localities didn't just hire more teachers, they also hired more education workers outside of the classroom. In 1998, 5.7 million worked in the public education sector, but 1.7 million of those workers weren't involved in actual instruction. In the next 10 years, governments added another 400,000 workers who weren't involved in instruction at all.
Taxpayers should ask themselves what they get from this bureaucracy. Undoubtedly, there's a lot of paperwork associated with administering the public education system. Yet that shouldn't be an excuse for bloated government. Taxpayers should urge policymakers at all levels of government to find ways to streamline regulations and reporting requirements so that education dollars can be used to educate students.
In the wake of the recent economic crisis, states and local governments have been reducing spending.
No governor or local official wants to cut spending or reduce public sector jobs. Yet the current budget crisis requires an honest look at government finances. States don't need bailouts to preserve bloated budgets. They need to make cuts and return government to a more sensible size.
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States Don't Need a Bailout; States Need to Cut Spending
(c) 2010 U.S. News & World Report