For a few billion more

To provide New York City students with a “sound basic education” leading to a Regents diploma, the schools would need an extra $4.1 billion a year, says a new study. That would represent a 36 percent increase in spending, reports the New York Times.

In the 2001-2 school year, an average of $10,793 was spent educating each of the city’s 1.1 million schoolchildren. To help them meet the state’s academic standards, that number should have been $13,373, the study found. By next fall, it will have to reach $15,150.

I have a hard time believing it costs that much money to provide a “basic education.”

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  1. They have crammed so much into a “basic” education that additional money is needed. It is the definition of “basic” education that need to be examined.

  2. Walter Wallis says:

    Let’s see – $15,150 times 20 students? Gee, that’s $303,000 per teacher per year. That sounds like a nice salary even if they have to pay $2,700 a month rent for their classroom, a reasonable commercial rental rate for 900 square feet.rate.

    Pay no attention to that little man behind the curtain.

  3. Jack Tanner says:

    That much won’t provide for a basic education. It will just be spent while failing to provide a basic education.

  4. Wow. They needed $13,373 last year. That must have been so frustrating to all those school districts that miscalculated and spent only $13,372 last year, only to experience such massive failure.

  5. When schools are failing, the problem is always lack of funds, according to the education establishment. Just once, I’d like to see the schools show just where they are failing and exactly why more money will cure that problem.

    Walter’s right: $303,000 is lot of money to pour into one classroom. But I’ll bet the teacher isn’t making more than $60,000. Which leaves an overhead rate of about 400%. I’d love to see where all that money is going…

  6. And meanwhile, in Costa Rica where I’ve lived for a time, per pupil spending is a miniscule fraction of that figure, and the kids are much better educated with a “basic” education.


  7. The number is huge because it has to include not only the cost of education, but also the cost of child-rearing and babysitting. Students are coming into NYC schools profoundly underprepared–not only on a skills level, which requires remediation and special programs–but also on a basic socialization / school-readiness level. They don’t know how to be in school–how to sit still, how to pay attention, how to behave themselves, and so on. Because we, as a culture, cannot speak in public about the lousy job we’re doing raising children, EVERYthing has to become the school’s responsibility–and, therefore, fault.

  8. Richard Brandshaft says:

    Follow-up to Agathon:

    And in general, averages are tricky. To steal Paul Krugman’s example, if Bill Gates walked into a bar, the average worth of the bar patrons would be over a billion dollars. This is the same thing in reverse. The high cost of the problems is averaged with the cost of educating a student with no problems. This produces an average which would be unreasonable of it were the cost of educating a normal student. Which gives people too innumerate to grasp what an average means a chance for reflexive cheap shots.

  9. Bill Leonard says:

    Yeah, and meanwhile the education establishment continues its ritual litany: trust us and give us more money.

    People, there will never, ever be enough money expended to please the education establishment.

  10. If anyone believes that giving the teachers unions and NYC education department another 3 or 4 or 5 billion dollars/year will lead to any measurable improvements in the schools, well, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll sell you really cheap. All of the problems in the NYC public schools stem from (1) court decisions taking away from school authorities the power to discipline students, (2) the rise of powerful unions that have taken away from school authorities the power to hire, fire, promote and demote, and (3) the rise of single-parent (which often means no-parent) families instead of two-parent families. If you looked at the NYC schools in 1910, you would see high school graduates as well educated as most college kids today and none of the problems cited above.

    If money were the answer, why aren’t the DC public schools the best in the country instead of the worst?

  11. Also, keep in mind that the number quoted is what would be needed to prepare all students for a high school diploma, which now (unlike when I was in school) requires the passing of 5 fairly hard-core graduation tests. This is probably NOT what anyone else will accept as a definition of “basic” education. The English Regents exam is one of (if not the) hardest graduation-level English tests in the country. The Math A from last year is still under scrutiny for revision. The Global History coves 6,000 years of history and 2 years of curriculum…and so on. And EVERY student must pass ALL of them. Even taking into account the manipulation of grading matrices behind the scenes, of COURSE it would require billions to guarantee that ALL students can pass ALL of these tests…and enough courses to graduate. We can’t even get all students to show up every day.

  12. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘The number is huge because it has to include not only the cost of education, but also the cost of child-rearing and babysitting.’

    Child rearing and babysitting aren’t the schools jobs. No amount of money that can be spent in the schools are going to fix the problems of negligent parents nor should they.

  13. The best way to avoid considering education reform is to say that what schools need is more money.

    It’s not true. In fact, I think if we had a major cut in funding, it would be the best thing that could happen.

  14. Agathorn needs to provide a more rigorous analysis of how “the cost of child-rearing and babysitting” accounts for NYC’s cost of $13,373 per student. All schools provide babysitting inasmuch as they provide a place for children to stay; what makes New York’s situation different and expensive? And what “child-rearing” services are these schools providing, and why do they cost so much money?

  15. I’d like to see this cost broken down. How much of this money goes to school facilities? Teacher salaries? Administration costs? Transportation? Textbooks? Media? Paper, pencils, etc.?

  16. Interesting. Here in Tasmania (Aust) it costs about half that amount per child in a primary school, slightly more in secondary, yet I would guess our kids are just as well educated.

  17. LibraryGryffon says:

    Good heavens. And the proposed budget for the entire state of Connecticut is only 14.2B right now. It’s hard to believe that they think it should cost more for just the NYC school system than an entire state. (We’re not that small!)

  18. Serious people, when presenting financial data based on estimates, present it in an appropriate form (“the number should have been about $13000”). People who presents data with a spurious precision ($13373) are rarely very good analysts.

  19. The educational system should be careful. They have reached the point where you could hire a private tutor for every single child. It would be more efficient, I’m sure.

  20. I guess they must be using a triage system to decide who gets an education and who doesn’t.

    Isn’t this the same district that pays its custodians so much that they are actually able to subcontract out the work?

  21. Geez,

    I would like to see just ONE single study where spending more money on education produces a better product. In case most people wonder, the US education system (K-12) produces the worst return on investment (ROI), and studies have shown that in the US model, kids do worse the LONGER they attend school (i.e. – they hold their own with their peers in the world in 4th grade, are doing so-so by 8th grade, and are at the bottom by the 12th grade).

    On a side note, I spent 68 bucks on Tuesday to register my car, $40 of that was taxes, and of that amount $33 was for the public school system (county). I guess if I want to hold on to that money, I better start taking the bus (sigh).

  22. I’d like to echo Geoff Matthews — anyone have good statistics on where all the money goes?

  23. I’d make the same comment about college:
    “I have a hard time believing it costs that much money to provide a college education.”

  24. Over on ReformK12, there is this story about a NYC teacher who has spent most of the last 14 years being paid for NOT teaching while various complaints about him are processed through the system. At a salary of $77,000 a year. Even the teacher’s union wants to streamline processing of complaints against teachers.

    The NYC school system definitely needs LESS money and administrators with a spine. Not to mention enough education not to use the phrase “verbal corporal punishment”.

  25. D Anghelone says:

    I’d like to echo Geoff Matthews — anyone have good statistics on where all the money goes?

    Good statistics are not to be had. Bear in mind that the Guiliani who took on Cosa Nostra couldn’t dent Edu Nostra.

  26. By coincidence, we just got the notice of next year’s tuition at our son’s school — $13K.
    It’s startling to know it wouldn’t even be enough to meet NYC public school standards. (Though, to be fair, that tuition doesn’t cover quite all of the school’s expenses, or its fundraising campaigns).

  27. Money isn’t the root of all evil. It’s modern magic. Spend $580 trillion, and “No Child, Nobody, Absolutely Freaking Nothing” will be “Left Behind”:

  28. It’s hard to tell where all of the money goes, but for Chicago schools, more than half of the money was used up before it got to the actual school. That would correspond to $150K of that $300K for the classroom being spent before it even got to the principal for that school. That’s astounding.

    Also, the point about averages was a good one. Some things that skew the average are special education students who win lawsuits. There is some good data here on NYC schools which indicates that over a quarter (26%) of the budget is spent on special education needs.

    There are also language issues. Bilingual education is expensive, particularly on a per student basis if there are only one or two students in a school who speak a particular language. According to a pro bilingual screed in 1997 alone the NY State Education Dept. added almost two dozen new languages available for bilingual education.

  29. Walter Wallis says:

    Perhaps we need to split off the babysitting, feeding, even bathing of children from educating them. If teachers only had to teach, I suspect the vast majority of them would teach well. They just get nibbled away by the mice of special interests.

  30. Hmmm. That number sounds an awful lot (at usual exchange rates of about 1.5) like the “real” cost of university places in the UK. Which you’d expect to be rather costlier…

  31. I have an idea for lowering school costs: if you can prove you exercise regularly (by bringing in a bill from ballet lessons or a soccer team, for example) and you have a healthy body fat percentage, you can pass out of gym. If you can give a good presentation in front of a class, you can pass out of speech. If you know that vegetables are good and drugs are bad, you can pass out of health. If I hadn’t had to take stupid, pointless classes like these, I probably could have graduated a year early. Not to mention I wouldn’t have been so insanely bored in school, so I would have caused a lot less trouble for the teachers, so all in all everyone else’s experiences would have improved. Schools today are aimed at the lowest common denominator (the ones that weigh 300 pounds and couldn’t tell a complete sentence from their belly buttons) when perhaps nurturing the best and brightest students would bring more lasting benefit than trying to reach the ones that simply don’t care.

  32. Kacie, but that would be efficient and make sense.