Illinois schools outspend, underperform neighbors
Illinois test scores lag nearby states as administrative bloat keeps money from classrooms
Education is a road to a better life. A quality education allows children to maximize their potential, and providing that for every child is one of the most important undertakings of state government.
But research shows Illinois is failing to live up to the promise of high quality or efficient education, as Illinois schools consistently spend more than neighboring states only to produce worse test scores.
Between 2003 and 2019, Illinois per-pupil spending was the highest among neighboring states, despite worse outcomes. Illinois spent between 8% and 25% more per student, only to fall behind every neighboring state on reading assessments according to the Nation’s Report Card. Similarly, all but two states, Kentucky and Missouri, outscored Illinois on math assessments.
To boot, all Illinois’s neighbors also boasted higher graduation rates between 2003 and 2019.
When benchmarked against each state in the nation, Illinois ranks 15th in per student spending, but falls to 27th in both math and reading assessments since 2003.
Fifteen states spend less per student while producing better results on the NAEP in both math and reading.
Much of the divide between Illinois high educational spending and lackluster student achievement on standardized tests stems from chronic overspending on the hierarchical bureaucracy above schools.
While there is a strong statistical link between improved student outcomes and spending on instruction in the classroom, there is no such link between spending on administration and student achievement.
Consider that Illinois was the only state to spend more than $1 billion on general administration at the district level in 2018. Comparatively, California, which serves three times as many students as Illinois, spent $780.5 million on general administrative costs, a third less than Illinois.
Illinois $631 of per pupil spending on district administration in 2019 was more than double the national average.
From an excessive number of school districts to generally bloated administrative costs, far too many tax dollars are pulled away from students and classrooms, the very place educational spending can go the furthest.
Lawmakers must put students first and ensure tax dollars find their way to the classroom where they can have the greatest impact.