SOTU, Brute?

In tonight’s State Of The Union address, President Obama is expected to call for increased government education spending on the theory that this will improve outcomes, raise productivity, and make us more internationally competitive.

Really? Again?

I already offered a thorough debunking of the notion that increased federal (or total) education spending has improved U.S. student achievement on the eve of last year’s SOTU, and thanks to the miracle of the intarwebs, there’s no need to repeat it here.

But the president is not simply advocating a strategy that is a proven failure, he is plunging a dagger into the heart of the one federal education program that is a proven success. There is already a program that is producing better educational outcomes at a quarter of the cost of the status quo: the Washington, DC Opportunity Scholarships Program. It pays private school tuition for poor DC kids, at an average cost of about $7,000. Participating parents are happy with their chosen private schools, test scores are as good or better than those in the public schools, graduation rates are significantly better than in the public schools, and, here’s the clincher: DC is spending four times as much per pupil on its district public schools… over $28,000 a year.

Yes, I know, they claim it’s less. But if you simply add up the k-12 spending numbers for the District of Columbia, ignoring charter schools and higher ed., it comes to $28,000 per child. Don’t take my word for it, here’s a spreadsheet with all the numbers as well as links to the official budget documents.

While the media have been shy about reporting DC’s actual public education spending figures (maybe the MSM can’t afford a copy of Excel these days?) there’s one thing they’ll have a hard time not reporting on tonight: the Opportunity Scholarships program itself. That’s because Speaker John Boehner has invited students, parents, and teachers who have participated in that program to attend the SOTU with him. You can catch our liveblogging of the event here, and it’ll be interesting to see how the different networks cover this particular story.