Ah, back-to-school. It’s an energizing time – students eagerly await meeting old friends and new, teachers have a fresh start for the year, and parents set goals and expectations for their children. Most of us fondly remember the simultaneous nervousness and excitement of stepping into a new class for the first time: Who’s in the class? What’s my teacher going to be like? Will I get good grades this year?
But what a lot of students and parents don’t realize is that back-to-school isn’t the same for everyone. There are more abstract and latent factors at play that affect a child’s school year, and they are very different across the country.
The National Education Association (NEA) releases its research after each school year on dozens of metrics from teacher salary to student-teacher ratio to school expenditures and so much more. You can read the full report from the 2013-2014 school year (the most recent available), but we’ve listed some of the most impactful facts below.
- The overall population has increased, as has US public school enrollment, up .3% from the year before. However, last year, 42 states fell below the national average for the percent of daily attendance out of total enrollment. And 10 states – mostly in the Midwest - have seen the percent of high school graduates decline over the last 10 years.
- Overall, the average salaries for public school teachers have declined by 3.5% over the past 10 years. In the same time period, 34 states have seen teachers’ salaries decline, including 14 states whose salaries declined by over 6.5%.
- The national average for per student education expenditures last year was $11,355 per student, which is up from the previous year. Five states – mostly in the Northeast – have expenditures over $18,000 per student. There were 33 states that fell below the national average, and the bottom states (with expenditures below $8,000 per student) were in the West/Southwest.
- Between the 2012-2013 school year and the 2013-2014 school year, the national average student-to-teacher ratio increased .1% to 15.9 students per teacher. There were 17 states with averages above this, and many of the largest number of students per teacher were in Western states. Most of the smallest student-to-teacher ratios were in Northeastern states.
So what does this mean? Stand for Children’s mission is to ensure that all students, regardless of background, receive an equal opportunity for an excellent education. When so many factors can change a school year for a child, it’s vital that we have voices fighting for educational equality.
As this school year begins, consider what educational equality means to you and how you can, in your own way, advocate for the things that matter most to you. Talk to your child's principal. Write a letter to your Senator. Spread the word amongst your peers. Join your voice wth Stand's. Show up. Speak up.