Wisconsin spends a lot of money on education, and its teachers are well-paid. The average total compensation for a teacher in the Milwaukee public schools is over $100,000 per year.
In fact, Wisconsin spends more money per pupil than any other state in the Midwest. Nonetheless, two-thirds of Wisconsin eighth-graders can’t read proficiently.
But it gets worse: “The test also showed that the reading abilities of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders had not improved at all between 1998 and 2009, despite a significant inflation-adjusted increase in the amount of money Wisconsin public schools spent per pupil each year. . . . from 1998 to 2008, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil spending by $4,245 in real terms yet did not add a single point to the reading scores of their eighth graders and still could lift only one-third of their eighth graders to at least a ‘proficient’ level in reading.”
So it’s lots of pay but not much in the way of performance. And in this, alas, Wisconsin’s situation is typical of public education at the K-12 level around the country. (In fact, one of the reasons given for the increase in higher-education costs is the need to provide remedial education to many high school graduates, who never managed to learn the things they were supposed to have learned before they arrived at college. As an explanation for high college costs it’s shaky, but the phenomenon itself is beyond dispute).
So at the K-12 level, we’ve got an educational system that in many fundamental ways hasn’t changed in 100 years – except, of course, by becoming much less rigorous – but that nonetheless has become vastly more expensive without producing significantly better results.