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Despite lowest growth in spending per pupil, Indiana student scores rank third in nation

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(The Center Square) – While Indiana has increased its public education spending at a lower rate than most of the country, student tests rank among the best, according to a recently released report.

The free market-focused Reason Foundation released its Public Education at a Crossroads study, analyzing the correlation between increased spending and improved test scores in American schools between 2002 and 2020.

The Hoosier showed increased test scores despite less funding. The state experienced the lowest percent increase in per-pupil funding since 2002, yet student scores are now the third highest in the nation. The study uses the National Assessment of Education Progress scores to compare student progress at a federal level.

The Reason Foundation study found that regardless of state, teacher salaries had grown the least out of all funding categories. Non-teaching staff grew by 20% average across all states, far outpacing the average student enrollment increase of 6.6%. Education funding as a whole had increased in all states except North Carolina.

Indiana had the second lowest percent increase in education spending from 2002 to 2020, with only a 1.9% increase from $13,116 to $13,368. Today, Indiana ranks 35th in education spending per pupil.

The state spent $4,237 in student support services in 2020, up by 10.1% since 2002. The state ranks 33rd in support service spending. However, spending on instruction per pupil decreased the most in Indiana out of all states, with a 6.7% decline from $6,658 to $6,213.

Capital outlay, which includes construction expenses and infrastructure repairs, remained high in Indiana, with a 56.9% growth in spending per pupil, or $1,994 in 2020.

Indiana’s per-student debt growth is the highest in the nation, at 393.2% higher than in 2002. At $10,743 per student, the Hoosier state has the 16th highest educational debt. The state’s total education debt is at $10,458,248,000.

Public school enrollment increased by 5.5%, just below the national average of 6.6%.

The state experienced a 3.4% teacher hiring growth but a 25.6% growth in non-teaching hiring.

Indiana faced the largest decline in teacher salaries at an 18.9% decrease. On average, teachers made $63,818 in 2002, but made $51,745 in 2020. The state ranks 41st in teacher salaries in the nation.

The study found Indiana’s average spending did not correlate with lower student scores. The eighth grade NAEP math score rose from 20th to 3rd in the nation, while free and reduced lunch students taking the eighth-grade math and reading NAEP scored the third-highest in the nation.

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