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With all the controversy over school funding, I thought it would be interesting to look at how states rank in spending per student, adjusted for cost of living, and test scores. I used 2019, the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 8th-grade math scores, that I could find, and compared the top 15 states in per-student spending,  and the bottom 15 in per-student spending. Among the top 15 states in per-student spending, 7 were in the top 15 in 8th-grade math test scores and 4 were in the bottom 15. Among the bottom 15 states in per-student spending, 5 were in the bottom 15 states in 8th-grade math test scores. There were actually 2 that were in the top 15 in scores.

Looking at these numbers it seems clear that there is more to educating students than just spending more money. Of course, each state has its own characteristics and issues, but looking at all the states, you would think there would be a clear pattern if just spending more money resulted in higher scores.         


This week the Senate introduced and advanced SF 389 out of the Commerce Committee to address fraud in Iowa’s public assistance programs. In 2019 Iowa was fined approximately $2 million by the US Department of Agriculture for a nearly 10% error rate in the administration of a welfare program. The goal of welfare programs is to provide assistance to those individuals meeting the required criteria, like being a resident of Iowa, a citizen of the United States, and with limited income or assets.

The current process used to identify eligibility for welfare programs in Iowa is outdated, and significantly more efficient processes are available. An abundance of consumer data is readily available from federally regulated companies to confirm in real time if someone applying for public assistance is doing so properly. These organizations can check the assets, employment, residency, and citizenship in a matter of moments. Every individual improperly receiving benefits takes up resources intended for someone legitimately in need.

Rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in order to protect taxpayer dollars is a key role of the Legislature.  More accurate administration of welfare benefits in Iowa will save taxpayers from being cheated by fraudsters and also protects against future penalties from the federal government for not administering the program as carefully as necessary.

Author: Julian Garrett


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