Lloyd Brown: It’s the ‘value’ of education, not just what we spend

"The amount spent on a service is less relevant than the value of the service."

This year the Florida Legislature increased funding for public schools by $248 per pupil, and a total K-12 budget of $21 billion. Predictably, news stories and editorials complained it was not enough and that schools remain “underfunded.”

Such claims focus on inputs and ignore outputs.

Education is a service. The amount spent on a service is less relevant than the value of the service.

“Value” means getting a product or service that is as good or better than a product or service that costs as much or more.

To some, merely throwing money at public schools is all important. They call it an “investment.” Yet, they never produce any evidence that taxpayers get a decent return on their investment.

Four decades ago one Florida Governor, a Democrat, proposed to raise spending so that Florida was in the “upper quartile” of spending on education. It was claimed that this would help students learn. No evidence was given to support that claim and the Democrat majority in the legislature rejected his proposal.

Test scores began showing improvement after Gov. Jeb Bush introduced standards and accountability 20 years ago.

Nevertheless, some continue to insist that Florida must spend more on education. Leading the clamor are the teacher union bosses.

When spending increases, teacher salaries increase. As teacher salaries increase, union revenues increase. As union revenues increase, unions have more money to contribute to the election campaigns of candidates who pledge to increase education spending.

Rinse, repeat.

Rational people prefer to ask: What do we get for the money we spend?

The following comparison of inputs and outputs came from Ballotpedia, which attributes the numbers to the U.S. Dept. of Education.

state schools students teachers per pupil $ math 4 math 8 read 4 read 8 Grad. rate
Florida 4,269 2,692,162 176,537 $8,433 41% 31% 39% 33% 76%
Alabama 1,637 744,637 51,877 $8,755 30% 20% 31% 25% 80%
Georgia 2,387 1,703,332 109,365 $9,099 39% 29% 34% 32% 72%
Mississippi 1,063 493,650 32,613 $8,130 26% 21% 21% 20% 76%
U.S. 98,454 49,771,118 3,109,101 $10,700 41% 34% 34% 34% 81%

Clearly, Florida gets good value from what it spends on K-12 education.

It spends less per pupil than the U.S. average, and less than all but one neighboring state, yet equals or exceeds in achievement in nearly every category.

Arguably, the most important number is the fourth-grade NAEP reading score. If a student can’t read by the end of the fourth grade, almost nothing else matters. Florida does better than the average state.

The notion that schools are underfunded is repeated as rote constantly. Google “Florida editorials underfunded schools” and you get an astounding 122,000 results.

Yet, in no editorial is any evidence produced to demonstrate underfunding.

This graphic demolishes the claim.

The chart shows huge spending increases over a 40-year period without noticeable improvement in results.

It is incumbent upon those who continue to claim that public schools are underfunded, especially in Florida, to make a better case. Simply stating something as a fact is not a valid argument.


Lloyd Brown, a former reporter, columnist and editor, is retired but still writing occasionally, for eyeonjacksonville.com, American Thinker and other publications.

Guest Author


  • Jim

    May 8, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    Meanwhile here in Brevard County we’re having a hard time getting teachers because we pay so little. Keeping education on an adequate, barely above starvation level of funding is not exactly a strong commitment to education. The fact that we’re above the 50th percentile on some scores doesn’t mean we’ve reached our goal. That’s hardly a reason to clap our hands and say “mission accomplished.” I would like to see lawmakers who are more committed to Florida’s children than that.

  • Eric Rodriguez

    May 9, 2019 at 9:08 am

    What Mr. Brown has done is clearly demonstrate how poorly Florida values its teachers.
    Florida does have good test results when compared to other states across the nation. Did Jeb Bush raise the test scores? The teachers in this state raised the test scores.
    As a reward for the teacher’s efforts they are among the worst paid in the nation. Our school facilities and resources are also not among the best in the nation because we spend less on each student than almost every other state. Imagine what our scores could be if Florida’s teachers were paid the national average and our student’s facilities and resources were not sub-standard.

  • buy cvv online

    May 11, 2019 at 1:04 am

    I know this if offf toօpic but I’mlooking into stаrting my owwn blog and was wonderiing
    what all is reqսired to gget setup? I’m assuming hɑving a blog lіkе yours ԝould cost
    a pretty penny? I’m not verу web sɑvvy so I’m not 100%
    certain. Anyy ttips or advice would be greaty appreciatеd.

  • Regina Hatch

    May 11, 2019 at 6:17 am

    The line graph that delineates spending, fails to address the fact that the rate of inflation from 1970-2010 was 462%, and school spending only increased by about 180%. The test scores and graduation rates, although comparable to our neighboring states, are still abysmal. This is not a union issue, this is a societal issue. Schools need more funding, because parents don’t parent the way they used to. Many work multiple jobs, others have substance abuse addictions. Children are riddled with mental illness, ADHD, anxiety, just to name a few issues. Often they are on medication. Not one child here or there, but several in every classroom. Then the meds run out, for whatever reason a parent didn’t fill the prescription, and learning is repeatedly interrupted for the whole class. For the ones who do not have a diagnosis, it’s constant disruption, all day, every day. Standards have been raised so high, that they are not developmentally appropriate. There are so many standards that students do not get depth in their learning. But this article seems to say, “Let’s keep cutting funding to education, because we can keep doing more with less. We are doing okay!” I want more for Florida. More than okay, I want excellence. Well funded public schools fully staffed with counseling services, parental support and partnerships, security, standards with deep learning instead of broad overviews, and less testing so there is more time for learning. Because it’s not all about money, but it sure would help if schools were funded the way they ought to be.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn