Public Schooling in Louisiana and Mississippi

Here are some quick summary points regarding education funding and student outcomes in Louisiana and Mississippi, two states getting some national attention these days…

1. In Louisiana, according to data on 5 to 17 year olds from the American Community Surveys of 2005 to 2007, approximately 17% of children avoid the public schooling system to attend private schools. That’s second highest in the nation. Mississippi is closer to, but still above the middle among states.

2. In addition to ranking second highest in non-public school attendance, Louisiana also ranks second lowest in “effort” in financing public schools, where effort is measured as total state and local spending on public education as a percentage of gross state product. Mississipi, because it is a generally poorer state with lower GSP, is nearer the average on effort.

3. Both states rank near the bottom annually on the reading and math portions of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

4. Both states rank near the bottom annually on state and local per pupil spending on public schools even after adjusting for regional variation in competitive wages and for various other characteristics of public schools (size, poverty rate, etc.).

The two figures below are illustrative of the position of Louisiana and Mississippi on questions of education funding, effort and outcomes.

Regional Wage and Cost Adjusted State and Local Revenues and NAEP Reading
Regional Wage and Cost Adjusted State and Local Revenues and NAEP Reading

This first chart shows that there exists a modest relationship between state and local spending on education across states and NAEP reading scores. And two states that spend little and achieve little are Louisiana and Mississippi.

Effort and NAEP Reading
Effort and NAEP Reading

This second graph shows the relationship between Effort (% of GDP spent on public schools including state and local resources) and NAEP reading scores. As noted above, Mississippi puts up relatively average effort but in spite of this effort simply cannot muster the resources to achieve desirable outcomes with it’s very high poverty student population.

Lousiana has much less excuse than Mississippi. It’s effort is low. It’s spending is low, and indeed it’s outcomes are low, for those who remain left behind in public schools in Lousiana.