U.S. Spends More, Gets Less in Education

An international survey found that the United States spends more than any other developed country in the world on education, but American students trail foreign students consistently on international tests.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent an average of $15,171 in 2010 on each student when college or vocational training was factored in—the highest in the world. The average for each elementary student was $11,000 per elementary student and more than $12,000 for each high school student. Switzerland spent $14,922 per student, Mexico averaged $2,993, and the average OECD nation spent $9,313.

The survey showed that brand-new and experienced teachers in the United States had higher salaries than most of their foreign equivalents. As a percentage of the economy, U.S. spending on education was higher than the average; the U.S. spent 7.3 percent of its economy while the average was 6.3 percent.

But all of the money spent does not guarantee success; U.S. fourth-graders ranked 11th in the world in math in 2011; U.S. eighth-graders ranked ninth. Among 15 year-olds in 2009, the math literacy rate was 31st in the world—lower than the international average—while they were 23rd in science.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers labor union, said, "When people talk about other countries out-educating the United States, it needs to be remembered that those other nations are out-investing us in education as well.” She was referencing the fact that the United States taxpayers spend 36 percent of the cost of college and vocational training programs while in other OECD nations, the average was 68 percent.

But Weingarten ignored the fact that teachers in the U.S. earn more than other teachers around the world. The average first-year American high school teacher makes $38,000; the average OECD teacher makes roughly $31,000. The average American high school teacher makes $53,000; the average OECD equivalent makes $45,500.


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