The Unfortunate State of America’s Education

How teachers could get paid $80,000/year without a single change to the education budget.

The current state of education in America is sad, unfair, and everyone has the right to be upset about it.

Billions of dollars are spent on defense, interest on debt, and many people are wondering why more money and attention isn’t put on educating our people. Our teachers are severely underpaid, and Common Core has been nothing short of a failure. Frankly, graduating kids today are getting progressively more stupid, and no noticeable improvements are being made to the education system to prevent that.

When looking at the allocation of our tax dollars, something seems off. Only 3% of our tax dollars are spent on education.

However, when looking at the funding objectively, ($77.4B per year) there is more than enough funding to make America far and away the leader in education. America spends more on education per student ($12,731 per year) than any country in the world with a population over 10M. We should have the smartest students, the most innovative businesses, and the best teachers.

America spends more on education per student ($12,731 per year) than any country in the world with a population over 10M.

When digging into the funding, the United States currently budgets roughly $6,900 per student in education for Instruction. According to the US, Instruction includes teacher salaries, curriculum, miscellaneous costs relating to testing, and other federal expenses to make education “happen” for everyone.

This means that a school of 300 would get $2.07 million per year to spend on Instruction. (300 students x $6,900 each = $2.07 million budgeted for Instruction.)

Pie chart using data from combined with average teacher salaries and average student:teacher ratio in schools.

For this example, we’ll use the common student/teacher ratio of 16:1. This means there would be 18 teachers in a school of 300 students.

With our current budget for education, we will assume a school should spend $2,000/student/year on books and materials. $2,000/student/year is quite high considering the amount of open education resources that are available.

Using these numbers, the average teacher salary in this school would be $81,667/year. Simple math for this is below:

$6,900/year per student
$2,000/year for curriculum and books and crap
= $4,900/year per student for teachers and instructors.

$4,900/year per student with 300 students = $1.47 million
$1.47 million budgeted for 18 teachers = $81,667/year average salary.

This is a full $37,326/year more than the current average teacher salary for K-12 teachers. An 88% raise. Instead, we’re spending most of this funding on curriculum and God knows what.

Currently, an average American teacher receives only $44,341/year to do their job.

Using the same 16:1 student:teacher ratio from above, a school of 300 gets just $798,138 to pay teachers. With $2.07 million in funding, the extra $1.3 million budgeted for Instruction disappears into miscellaneous “curriculum costs” and unknown federal expenditures. Why exactly is a school of 300 kids paying $1.3 million dollars per year to our federal government for curriculum and “instruction” that doesn’t include teacher salaries?

This basic math shows that budgets wouldn’t need to be increased at all to drastically improve education. Remember, we’re already spending more than any well populated country in the world. This more importantly demonstrates why education should not be handled by a federal government that consistently botches everything it touches.

I spent an hour doing some basic math to put these numbers together using public resources. It should be blatantly obvious to anyone with the smallest business sense that proper funding for education isn’t the problem. The problem is how the funding is being used, and how inefficiently our hard earned tax dollars are being thrown away.

Just like in business, throwing endless money at a broken model does not fix anything. It’s foolish to suggest more money and socialism will solve these issues when our government is bloated and more corrupt than any big corporation. Fix the problems, iterate, and then scale appropriately.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” — Nelson Mandela