Texas’ public education spending continues to inspire little confidence, with reports today that the SAT scores remain flat to declining even though fewer kids took the test in 2009. The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports Texas’ kids scored just one point better on the math portion of the test, while the reading and writing sections dropped by as much as five points. For this we have increased the amount of money flowing to the bureaucracy by 113 percent since 1998?

According to financial data available from the Texas Education Agency, expenditures on public education in 1998 were $27.8 billion — $5,597 per pupil. In 2008, public education spending was at $9,998 per kid, or $46.5 billion in total.

So we spent $27.8 billion in 1998 to achieve an average SAT score of 992. A decade later, increasing spending by 113 percent (or 78.6 percent more per pupil) and SAT scores have remained flat.

Where is the money going? Not to the classroom. Despite spending $9,998 per pupil on public education in 2008, only $4,500 was actually spent per pupil on instruction.

That’s because we have 31 percent more non-teachers on the public school payroll than we did in 1998. There is a one-to-one ratio between teaching and non-teaching full-time employees.

So while we have many wonderful teachers in the classroom, they increasingly cannot teach because of the stifling bureaucracy over them. We talk about the problems of teachers being required to “teach to” the test, but ignore the inherent lack of teaching that occurs when teachers have to report to so many bosses, none of whom are (demonstrably) adding value to instruction.

When instructional costs account for less than half of total expenditures, it’s no wonder academic performance isn’t on the rise. Indeed, it’s a testimony to the quality of women and men sticking it out in the classroom, despite such conditions, that our students are treading water and not sinking.

If we’re serious about improving the results achieved with our public education tax dollars, local school districts must be forced to cut the weight of the non-instructional staffing, eliminate the 19th Century organizational bureaucracy permeating public education, and empower teachers with more competitive pay that rewards performance.

What we cannot do is continue to fund bureaucracies that excel only in expending ever increasing sums of money without producing the academic results our children need to thrive in the decades ahead.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.