Federal Education Spending

At A Blog About School, Chris asks:

On the other hand, would it really be so hard for a state to pass up federal education funding and the (often expensive) mandates that go with it? As Roberts writes, “In the typical case we look to the States to defend their prerogatives by adopting ‘the simple expedient of not yielding’ to federal blandishments when they do not want to embrace the federal policies as their own. . . . The States are separate and independent sovereigns. Sometimes they have to act like it.” When it comes to No Child Left Behind, I wish they would act like it.

Using data from 2010-2011 Certified Financial Report (CAR) available here and data from the 2011 Annual Condition of Education Report available here:

  • 473,493 – certified enrollment (includes 4,804 students categorized as “other”)
  • $5,083,072,157 – general fund expenditures
  • $10,735 – general fund expenditures per student [COE reports $8,603 (or $9,455 from all funds)?]
  • $6,736,487,614 – local/intermediate/state/federal revenue
  • $14,227 – local/intermediate/state/federal revenue per student
  • $7,779,499,880 – total revenue (includes bonding and other sources)
  • $16,430 – total revenue per student
  • $640,301,946 – federal revenue (includes temporary ARRA funding)
  • $1,352 – federal revenue per student (includes temporary ARRA funding)
  • Federal revenue as percent of local/intermediate/state/federal revenue: 9.5%
  • Federal revenue as percent of total revenue: 8.2%

In short, for chipping in a dime or less, the feds tell us how to spend the whole dollar.  [Sometimes the feds don’t even have to chip in the money to get the states to do what they want.]

Note that we have no accounting for the compliance costs of accepting the federal revenue.  That is, it seems likely that if Iowa rejected the federal funds, we might save some of the money forgone by ending compliance activities and federally mandated programs that we don’t want to continue.  The rest of the money could be made up with some combination of short term spending freezes and slightly higher state or local taxes.

So why won’t we see Iowa rejecting federal money?  Here’s a few thoughts:

It’s easy to run the ad “incumbent cut education spending!”  It’s harder for the incumbent to explain the trade offs (preserving local/state control, less spending on compliance/unfunded mandates), especially when people may see federal money as “free” or as a return of Iowans’ federal taxes or the strings-attached as good ones.

Federal money pays for school lunch programs.  Even if we make up that money with state money, it’s easy to run the ad “incumbent wants poor children to go hungry at school!”

Austerity measures and higher taxes are unpopular, possibly even less popular than NCLB.


2 thoughts on “Federal Education Spending

  1. Chris

    Great stats.

    Don’t neglect the role of institutional inertia and self-preservation. Those federal dollars generate a lot of administrative jobs.

  2. Duane Swacker

    Thanks for the funding information and the ensuing (probable) effects of not accepting federal funding.

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