Study: Feds wasting billions in education spending

The federal government spends $14 billion a year boosting funding for schools with low-income families, but most of that taxpayer funding is wasted, a new paper says.

For 60 years, that funding has come from Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known in its current form as No Child Left Behind. The funding averages roughly $500 to $600 per student per year. Nationwide, the average amount spent per public school student is $12,000, so the funding bump from Title I is fairly small. That bump pays for only 10 hours of teaching a year for a student.

To be effective, the federal government either needs to spend more on the program or ensure the money is going toward effective uses, according to the paper, authored by the Brookings Institution's Mark Dynarski and Kirsten Kainz.

"There is little evidence that the overall program is effective or that its funds are used for effective services and activities," Dynarski and Kainz write. "Large proportions of school principals report using Title I funds for teacher professional development, which many studies have shown to be ineffective and which teachers do not find valuable. Other services on which principals spent Title I funds include after-school and summer programs, technology purchases, and supplemental services, which also have been shown to be ineffective, and class-size reductions, which are unlikely to be of the size needed to generate effects found in previous research."