This is an expanded version of a letter to the editor concerning education that I submitted to the U-T newspaper. It didn’t run, but no need for my research to go to waste.
Dear U-T Editor:
Teacher Sharon Collins’ letter selflessly calls for higher taxes for education, citing socialist Sweden as her shining light.
She didn’t do her homework.
She thinks Sweden values education more than America because they have a 25 percent sales tax (actually a VAT tax). But that high tax tells us nothing.
For a meaningful comparison, look at education spending per student. Of the 32 OECD counties (the economically advanced countries of the world) providing data, in 2008 Sweden ranks 6th in primary school per student spending, the U.S. 5th. Sweden ranks 9th in secondary school spending, the U.S. ranks 4th.
Sweden spent $9,080 per primary school student. The U.S. spent $9,940. Sweden spent $9,940 per secondary school student — the U.S. spent $12,007.
Think that’s not a fair comparison? Compare spending as a percent of GDP. Sweden spends 4.0% of GDP on K-12 education. The U.S. spends 4.1% — without a 25 percent “sales tax.” The OECD average is 3.8%.
But here’s the kicker — since 1993 Sweden has had a full-blown school voucher system. ANY parent can take the money spent on public schools and use it for sending their kids to private schools — religious or secular.
All Swedish schools compete for students, making the kids’ education a higher priority than the welfare of the school employees. While controversial when first adopted, education vouchers are now a non-issue in Sweden, as almost everyone supports the common sense choice and competition that this option offers.
Inadvertently, teacher Collins picked an interesting subject on which to “school” us. Class dismissed.