Right-to-Work states spend less on education, get more value for students

By Kimberly Morin

On Thursday Senate Bill 11, AN ACT prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union, is scheduled to be voted on by the entire New Hampshire Senate. It was voted Ought To Pass out of committee by a party line vote of 3-2. As the Right-to-Work (RTW) debate heats up in New Hampshire, unions are pushing statements about RTW states that are either untrue or don’t give the complete picture. One of those statements is that Forced Union states (like New Hampshire) spend more money on education than RTW states. That’s all they claim without adding anymore information. Political Buzz decided to verify the statement and then analyze the data to see how the states scored in education testing.

The AFL-CIO claims that Forced Union states spend 32.5% more on education than RTW states. Is this true? They are providing numbers for the being teachers union in the country, the National Education Association. Political Buzz looked at spending data compiled by “Governing” who added up education expenses by state that include everything from school administration to instruction employees benefits and salaries. The source of their information is from the 2014 Annual School System of Finance survey.

Spending and Test Scores by State

When looking strictly at education spending by state, only one RTW state falls into the top 10 for spending. All of the states in the bottom 10 for the least amount spent on education are all RTW (one Mixed Status) states as you can see in the graph below.

Education spending doesn’t really explain much; it just shows the amount of spending on education per student. What exactly do the states get for their spending? Political Buzz decided to compare test scores of students across each state to see if Forced Union states are getting what they pay for. This is where education spending gets interesting.

The test scores were compiled from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The test scores used are average test scores in reading and math for both 4th and 8th graders for 2015. The mean test scores were combined to get an average of all test scores. The results are below:

Unions are always demanding more money for education claiming that students will have better results. According to the graph, you would think that all of the top spending states would also have the top average test scores. They do not. Of the top 10 states that spend the most on education, only 5 are actually in the top for test scores. Of the bottom 10 states that spend the least on education, only 2 are actually in the bottom for test scores.

What does more spending get?

New York spends the most per student on education but is at a dismal 34th out of 50 states (Washington D.C. was not included) in testing. Utah spends the least amount per student yet is 14th out of 50 states in testing.

Forced Union states spend 28% more on education per student than RTW states yet the test scores show that they only average 2.5 points higher than RTW states. That’s only .0009% higher. Clearly spending more per student isn’t actually providing any benefit to the students. RTW states are spending less but getting more value for their dollars because their students are scoring almost as high as in Forced Union states.

When looking at the states on an individual basis, one only needs to look to New York and Utah to see a truly glaring difference. New York spends over $20,000 per student on education while Utah spends only $6,500 on education per student, yet Utah test scores are far above New York.

The union’s blanket statement that Forced Union states spend more on education actually means nothing. Yes, Forced Union states spend more but their children aren’t getting more value for that cost. If the test score differential was truly a big difference, then they could have something to show for all that spending but since it is not, what exactly is that spending getting the kids? Not much. It appears that the extra spending on education in Forced Union states only benefits the unions, not the students, all while costing taxpayers a fortune.