In the thread about the cost of Drones, a poster tossed out this meaningless stat below trying to prove that the US spends plenty on Education. That thread isn't about education, so I started a new thread to address more generally the problem with the stats tossed out by people who claim that the there is no problem with the amount the US spends on primary or secondary education.

Quote Originally Posted by Derec View Post
It's a myth that US spends little on education.

The question is, how are these funds spent? I think the education is in the US too politicized, from both left and right, which reduces effectiveness.
The first problem with that stat is that it makes no sense to present education spending as a % of total spending
by that government. If two countries of equal population spend the same on education but one country spends twice as much as the other of healthcare for kids, then the country that spend less on healthcare for their kids will have spent a higher % of its total spending on education. Yet, by any reasonable analysis is doing less for their kids, even less for education because unhealthy kids learn less and can't go to school.

The second and third problem is that the dollars spent are not adjusted for what matters, which is population size and per Capita GDP.

If you google "education spending by country" most of what you will get is similarly meaningless stats, because they either only adjust for population (per student spending) or only adjust for national GDP, but not both at the same time.
What matters is per pupil spending adjusted for per-capita GDP, which is highly related to cost of living and the differences in average income between countries. IOW, it not only adjust for what the country can afford to pay given its wealth, but what it needs to pay to produce the same amount of education as in countries where things like school building, books, and a median teacher salary cost less due to overall lower GDP.
When you do that, the US is below the 33 country OECD average in dollars spent per pupil as a % of per-capita GDP, for pre-school, primary, and secondary education. Only at the college level does the US spend more than the average OECD countries. (see Table on p. 217 of this OECD report)

The picture actually gets worse when you look at the % of the per pupil "education spending" that is spent on things to directly impact the quality of the instruction. In the US, a much higher % of the education budget goes to paying for schools construction, heating, air-conditioning, etc.. This is because these industries are completely privatized, so taxes spent of "education" are actually spent on making the CEOs and shareholders of energy companies millionaires. Also, new school construction is a larger part of the total "education" spending in the US, and none of that relates to quality of education. New schools are built due to overall population growth, as well as within-country migrations where lots of people move to previously low pop areas. The US has a higher pop growth than all but a few OECD nations, plus we have much higher than typical within-country migrations. The fact that Reno, NV has had to spend hundreds of millions just to have space for the 100% increase in students migrating to the area since 1990, does nothing to improve the per student quantity or quality of education.

Only a small part of total spending counted as "education spending" in the US is used in a way relevant to the quality of that education. One aspect of relevant spending is how much is spent to obtain high quality teachers.
Every viable economic theory predicts that attracting and retaining quality educators to the profession is directly determined by the compensation they receive.
The OECD also has looked at teacher compensation. Of the 20 OECD countries they have data for, the US ranks 16th of 20 in teacher pay relative to per Capita GDP and typical salaries in that country across professions. Yet, the US ranks 3rd in the total classroom hours per year they require of their teachers. In contrast, those 4 countries that have lower teacher salaries than the US, have way fewer required teacher salaries, and rand 15th, 17th, 19th, and 20th in teacher hours. IOW, the US is dead last in GDP-adjusted salary per hours taught.

In sum, on the valid stats that account for population, cost of living, hours worked, and whether the money is spent on actual instruction, the US ranks between below average to dead last compared to other OECD nations when it comes to spending that could impacts the quality of k-12 education.