The Cato Institute put together the graph you see on this post which shows the amount of federal spending on education relative to the reading, math, and science scores in our nation. As you can see, the amount of federal spending per pupil has increased quite a bit since the federal Department of Education was created, growing almost 190%, from a budget of $13.1 billion (in 2007 dollars) in 1980 to $77.8 billion by 2011. And yet, in spite of the massive increase in federal spending, scores have remained flat. Two conclusions can be drawn from this.
The second conclusion that one could reach when looking at the data, a conclusion that many conservatives and tea party people might agree to, is that the massive spending in education at the federal level was largely a waste of money and did nothing to improve our test scores. Much like the arguments that these groups advance to oppose the stimulus spending of the federal government today ("imagine if our nation would not have blown several trillion in dollars on nothing during the Obama administration- our children might actually have a future and the unemployment numbers would look basically the same!"), this group would argue that all of the spending done at the federal level is having little to no effect on test scores for students because the money is being gobbled up by bureaucrats in Washington who are far removed from the real educating of students at the local level. They would suggest spending less amounts on education at the federal level and seeing what might happen- perhaps test scores would remain flat as they have done for over 30 years, but if this happens than our nation could save that $77 billion dollars/year and use it in other areas where it might be needed or not use it at all and have our government run a balanced budget.
One of these conclusions is reasonable, measured, and supported by the data. The other conclusion is not. I'll let you be the judge of which is which.
H/T Doug Ross