June 21, 2021
Has spending on public education really declined over the past fifty years? The answer may be surprising. Dr. Jason Ellis (EDST) recently published a study in the Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy entitled, “A Short History of K-12 Public School Spending in British Columbia, 1970-2020.” The article examines fifty years of data on public K-12 education spending and tracks how expenditure has changed over time. His results show that, when adjusted for inflation, K-12 public education spending has increased 250% during the period of study. The primary cause of this growth is the increased number of teachers the system employs, in large part due to the efforts of the BC Teachers’ Federation in renegotiating standard class sizes and composition rules.
When asked what led him to this research area, Dr. Ellis says, “I kept hearing that because of Neoliberalism and austerity there were all these spending cuts, but no one’s really looked into it to see if it was accurate – it surprised me, especially given the importance that’s usually given to the budget. I’d like to see more attention to that in the future, and more research done into it.”
Dr. Ellis’ findings are significant, but he is quick to note that these results raise several important questions that should be addressed. He would like to see someone with skills in economics and public finance address the next phase of research, and look at questions such as: “Is the system that much better than it was in 1970? Does the spending we have now create the kind of equity we want? If not, how could we spend more effectively?”
A full story on Dr. Ellis’ research is posted on the UBC News website.