D.C. dollars

The District of Columbia spends $15,000 per student but gives only a $7,500 voucher to private schools that take low-income students, reported John Stossel in an education special. Not true, say Stossel in a correction. D.C. spends $28,000 per student, four times the average $6,620 voucher.

The $15,000 number, which comes from the the National Center for Education Statistics, and the Census, excludes major K-12 spending, Cato’s Andrew Coulson told Stossel. “DC has split up its education spending into seven different budgets, all of which go to k-12 public education, but only one of which is called “the DC Public School budget.”

The real figure? $26,000 for each student signed up at a DC public school. $28,000 for each student who actually attended. Some might say that’s an unfair number because it includes special education students that the private schools supposedly won’t take. But even if you drop the costs of special education students, DC still spends $23,000 per kid.

. . . Oh, and the $7,500 for voucher schools? Turns out that the average voucher school only charges $6,620 (many are Catholic schools.) So they cost a quarter of what public schools do, but still they do better!

Coulson invites skeptics to look at the spreadsheet.

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  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    There are a number of reasons public ed’s various components oppose charters and vouchers and choice.
    One–the one they don’t mention–is that charters and vouchers and choice show them up.

  2. What is often forgotten is that what a private school charges in tuition is rarely the whole cost of educating the students.

    The difference is made up through subsidies (does the parent church charge market rate facilities costs to the parish school, or does it underwrite all or part of the facilities cost?), volunteer labor (many private schools demand that parents contribute X hours per year for everything from in-class support to facilities maintenance) fundraising (from parents), and donations from outside individuals.

    OTOH, private schools may operate with much leaner administrations.

  3. It really does not matter why private schools charge a tuition less than the per pupil budget of government schools. If Martians were to subsidize instruction in schools operated by the Southern Baptist Convention only, taxpayers would be stupid not to accept the help. Unless, that is, you could show that instruction in SBC schools was deficient. Since parochial schools generally yield higher graduation rates and college acceptance rates, instruction is not deficient.

    Typically, government schools report a per-pupil budget based on total current expenditures and Fall enrollment. “Current expenditures” does not include interest on debt, capital expenditures, and benefits to retirees. Reporters (here, in Hawaii) insist that the (current expenditures/ Fall enrollment) figure is “accurate”. Seems to me, more accurate would be to count as many obtainable figures as possible. Just when are we supposed to account for pensions? Normal businesses count debt on their balance sheets. GM’s failure to keep honest books drove GM into bankruptcy that it might have avoided with honest accounting. According to a Pew study, most State pension funds are in trouble.

  4. Liz, how could the “whole cost” of educating a kid in a private school be forgotten when every time the horrendous financial waste of the public education system becomes an issue someone pops up with the somewhat vague defense that all the costs of private schools aren’t encompassed by their tuitions? And by “vague” I mean tossing out some other sources of funding without even a pretense of trying to quantify them.

    Under the assumption that other school districts are as dishonest as the D.C. district, and for the same reason, I wonder how tough it would be extract more accurate funding figures for other school districts? I know that the Detroit Public Schools quotes a per student funding figure about 40% higher then state average but assuming that the DPS is as dishonest as WCPS, I wonder what the true figure is?

  5. Hmmm, that’s about a half-million bucks to educate a classroom of 20 kids for a year. Boy, what an honestly-run program couldn’t do with that kind of money…

  6. Not just in DC, but across the country, there would be much less need for special ed if kids were explicitly taught to read, with phonics. I’ve read that almost 90% of spec ed kids have “reading disabilities”, but many/most of those may be “never been taught to read”. Why not do it right the first time? I’m sure lots of math “disabilities” also represent a failure to teach the basics to mastery. In other words, schools (admin, curriculum and teachers, in some combination) are creating learning disabilites. In medicine, the term is iatrogenic illness = caused by physician, and it leads to lawsuits.

  7. According to the article “What Do We Know About School Effectiveness?” in the May 2008 issue of Phi Delta Kappan – The Journal For Education, an evaluation of data collected by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) collected in 2000 and again in 2003 suggest that, when students with the same background factors were considered, public school students preformed better than private school students.

    or just read http://philosophywithoutahome.blogspot.com/2010/01/public-or-private-school.html


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