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The United States spends less on education than 11 other economically developed nations, according to a report by the American Federation of Teachers.

Based on 1987 data on 15 developed nations, the United States spends 4.7 percent of its gross domestic product on education, less than the 15-nation average of 5.4 percent.

The nation spends $860 per capita on education, fifth among the nations surveyed. The per-pupil expenditure of $3,398 is sixth among the nations.

Among other findings:

  • At 19 to 1, the United States has the fourth highest pupil-teacher ratio in the survey.
  • U.S. schools are much larger than those of other developed nations. Elementary schools here average 352 students, compared with 186 students for the other nations surveyed.
  • U.S. teachers do not earn as much as those overseas. Average pay in the 1980's ranked in the bottom third of the nations surveyed.

The report includes data on Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, Sweden, and Switzerland.

"This study lays to rest the myth that the U.S. spends more than other nations," Albert Shanker, president of the aft, said in a statement. "No matter how you measure it, our investment falls short of being number one."

The report is based on data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Education Department, and the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Oganization.

The findings echo those of the Economic Policy Institute, which charged last year that the United States spends proportionately less on precollegiate education than 13 other major industrialized nations. (See Education Week, Jan. 24, 1990.)

Responding to the aft report, U.S. Deputy Education Secretary Ted Sanders said in a statement: "It's time we stopped searching for new statistics to suggest that we are not spending enough on education. In fact, education spending increased 30 percent over all during the 1980's."

Copies of the report are available for $5 each from the aft Research Department, 555 New Jersey Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.

Vol. 10, Issue 30

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