The Cato Institute’s recent report, Cracking the Books: How Well Do State Education Departments Report Public School Spending?  highlighted the problems of school spending that face parents, students and school administrators on all levels.
The study noted that Alaska is ranked at the bottom of all 50 states because it does not provide the public with any per-pupil expenditure data, while 41 states do not report average employee benefits, and 10 states do not publish data about average employee salaries.
Cato based its report-card-like ratings, which were measured on scale of whether the states provided the following:
- Per-pupil expenditures;
- Total expenditure data;
- Average salary data; and
- Public accessibility.
The focus of the study was not to figure out which states are performing better, but to determine the availability of basic information about how states spend their education funding. Other aspects of the study looked at pension data of employees, how far the data goes back and whether the public can easily access and find the aforementioned statistics in Excel or PDF formats.
New Mexico, South Dakota, Washington, Texas and Nebraska were the top five states in Cato’s rating system, a conclusion that would shock lawmakers and education policy experts. New Mexico, for example, is not known as having high per-pupil expenditures compared to states such as Maryland or New York, which rank 17th and 8th respectively. But, because of the availability and transparency of their public school costs data, Cato gave them the top rating.
Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
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