Report: Kentucky test scores grow, teacher salaries fall



(The Center Square) – Kentucky’s education spending is rising higher than test scores, while teacher salaries are falling, according to a recently released report.

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

The Bluegrass State is no exception, with similar test scores despite increased per-pupil funding. While the average teacher salaries have decreased since 2002, the report shows student performance has not been affected. The study uses the National Assessment of Education Progress scores to compare student progress at a federal level.

The study found that regardless of state, teacher salaries had grown the least out of all funding categories. Non-teaching staff grew by a 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.

Kentucky had a 24.7% increase in overall education spending from 2002 to 2020. Today, Kentucky ranks 24th in education spending per pupil.

The state spent $3,995 in student support services in 2020, up by 27.1% since 2002. The state ranks 37th in support service spending.

Capital outlay, which includes construction expenses and infrastructure repairs, increased the most in Kentucky out of all states. From $323 to $1,254 per pupil, the state ranks first in growth rate by 288.7%.

Kentucky’s per-student debt is 89.8% higher than in 2002. At $8,868 per student, the state has the 20th highest educational debt.

Public school enrollment grew by 5.8%, just below the national average of 6.6%.

The state experienced 4.6% teacher hiring growth and 4.1% growth in non-teaching staff. This correlates with a 5.8% increase in students but goes against the national trend of a 20% increase in non-teaching hires.

Kentucky faced a 1.6% decline in average teacher salaries. On average, teachers made $54,801 in 2002, but made $53,907 in 2020. The state ranks 35th for best-paying teacher salaries in the nation.

The study found Kentucky’s increased student spending did not correlate with NAEP scores, except for the fourth-grade math, where students improved by 11%. The eighth-grade NAEP math score improved by 4% and the fourth-grade reading exam improved by 2%, while the eight-grade grade reading exam scores decreased by 3%.

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