Based on public-school results from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the average nationwide reading and math performance among low-income eighth grade students was pitiful, with a 48% proficiency rate in both subjects.
The big spenders paid more for worse results. In Nebraska, which spent nearly $8,000 per student, a mere 39% of disadvantaged eighth-graders scored proficient or better in reading and math. For the approximately $7,000 a year Illinois spent on instruction, its low-income eighth-graders did no better than the national averages in reading and math.
States that spent less per pupil tended to have better educational outcomes. More than 45% of low-income students in Idaho—with its relatively puny $4,100 per pupil spending—tested proficient in reading and math. Low-income students in stingy Arizona, which spent $4,200 per pupil on instruction, had 51% proficiency rates in both subjects. And students in penny-pinching Oklahoma, which spent around $4,300 per pupil, achieved a 53% proficiency rate in reading and 52% in math.
One of the most striking differences between these two sets of states is the availability of parental-choice programs. Unlike Nebraska or Illinois, both higher-scoring Arizona and Oklahoma have parental-choice scholarship programs that enable parents of disadvantaged students to choose the schools they think are best, including private schools. Schools have to compete for students, which forces them to improve their performance.Congratulations are due to my home state of Oklahoma! To be sure, it is one of many of my home states, but it is the one where I graduated from high school in a two-year period between moving there and leaving the state for college. Nonetheless, I have considerable family there.
Nonetheless, I am sure that the educational bar for proficiency is much too low and that in general it is likely to be too generously assessed. Even so, the results are clearly terrible. Government-run schools are a disgrace for the most part. Even when they are good at the basics, they tend to be awful Big Government indoctrination centers.