Budget Background

The president tells the American people that his FY 2012 budget “asks Washington to live within its means,” but his request for the Department of Education shows how far this rhetoric is from reality. After spending nearly $300 billion on education over the last three years, the president is requesting $77.4 billion for the department, an 11-percent increase from the current funding level.

By the end of the decade, surging federal spending will require annual interest payments of $844 billion, more than 10 times what we’ll spend that year on education. We are financing our children’s future on foreign credit.

The Administration’s budget plan seems to stem from a belief that more money always leads to better educational outcomes. But the U.S. spends thousands more per student than dozens of other countries—including New Zealand, Finland, Canada, South Korea, and Japan—whose schools outperform our own. The question is pursuing a strategy that produces the best outcomes and that secures our children’s future by freeing them from this crushing burden of debt.

Education Funding Facts:

  • The president’s budget requests $77.4 billion for the Department of Education. This is an increase of 11 percent over an annualized Continuing Resolution and a 31-percent increase from FY 2008.
  • Including the stimulus bill, education spending over the last three years hit an astounding $293 billion. This is an increase of $119 billion, or 68 percent, over the previous three years.
  • Interest on the debt for FY 2012 will be $242 billion, roughly three times the president’s discretionary education funding request. By FY 2021, under the president’s plan, the annual interest payment will be $844 billion, ten times the projected funding for the Department of Education for the same year.
  • Compared to the top performers on the last Program for International Student Assessment, such as South Korea and Finland, the United States is spending thousands of dollars more per student with little to show for it. Out of 34 countries, South Korea, which spends a total of $7,800 per student, ranks first in both reading and math. The United States, on the other hand, spends $11,600 per student but ranks 14th in reading and 25th in math. You can’t spend your way to better test scores.
  • The largest contributing factor to the dramatic growth in federal education spending is the Pell Grant program. Making more than $36 billion in aid available, the president’s request for Pell has more than doubled the cost of the program from FY 2008. At the same time, the number of participants will swell from 6.2 million to 9.6 million.