Education to Cost $353 Billion in 1989-90, Report Says

Times Staff Writer

The nation's schools and colleges will spend a record $353 billion in the coming year, more than double the amount of a decade ago, the government said Wednesday in its annual back-to-school report.

Although school enrollments have remained flat nationwide since 1980, the report said, spending for education has continued to rise, easily outpacing inflation. In the 1979-80 school year, the nation spent $166 billion for education.

Spending Up 29%

After taking inflation into account, spending for the nation's elementary and secondary schools has risen 29% since 1980, despite a slight drop in the number of students. Meanwhile, higher education spending has risen even faster, exceeding the inflation rate by 36%.

"Our nation continues to make a tremendous financial investment in education," U.S. Education Secretary Lauro F. Cavazos said in issuing the report, "but the education deficit continues to grow. Too many Americans remain ill-prepared for a changing world."

The Education Department report includes spending and enrollment data for both public and private schools and colleges. The figures cited for the 1989-90 year are projections.

Teachers Better Paid

The spending increases over the decade mainly reflect more and better-paid teachers in both schools and colleges, according to the report. This year, elementary and secondary schools will employ 2.7 million teachers, up more than 200,000 since 1980. But they will be teaching 45.6 million students, which is 723,000 fewer than in 1980.

The average salary of a public school teacher will reach $31,200 this year, the Education Department said. This is 5.5% higher than last year. Adjusted for inflation, the average teacher's salary has gone up 20% since 1980, the report said.

But government statisticians contend that the salary increases of the 1980s have only made up for declines during the 1970s.

"We've seen large increases in teachers' salaries in this decade. But, adjusted for inflation, the average salary this year is only slightly higher than in 1973, which was the peak year," said Tom Snyder, branch chief for the National Center for Education Statistics. In the late 1970s, education salaries fell far behind soaring inflation rates, he said.

In the coming school year, it will cost an average of $5,246 to educate each of the nation's elementary and secondary school students. This is more than double the cost of 1979.

Meanwhile, the total cost of educating a student in a public college or university will reach an average of $12,986 this year. The average cost will be $20,724 at private colleges and universities, the report said.

California stands out from other states because its school enrollments have risen steadily throughout the decade. In most other areas of the nation, the number of students has remained steady or declined slightly.

In the coming year, California will enroll 4,731,000 children in its public schools, up more than 600,000 from 1980, the Education Department said. About one in nine of the nation's public school children is enrolled in California, according to the report.

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