D.C. spends $29,409 per pupil

In 2009-10, Washington D.C. public schools spent $29,409 per student, according to the Census Bureau, points out Andrew Coulson at Cato @ Liberty. “This spending figure is about triple what the DC voucher program spends per pupil — and the voucher students have a much higher graduation rate and perform as well or better academically,” he writes.

D.C. spends much more per student than Cleveland and Atlanta, which enroll demographically similar students and earn similar NAEP scores, notes Michael McShane of AEI. (He divides revenues by students for an average of  $27,263 per student in D.C. In a comment, Coulson says D.C. spent more than its revenues, so his figure is correct.)

Per student, DC has the most teachers, the most instructional aides, the most instructional coordinators, the second most administrators, and the second most administrative support staff.

DC also pays their teachers more, with a starting salary for a first year teacher with a bachelor’s degree set at $51,539 a year and a teacher with a Master’s degree and 21 years of experience earning $100,839 per year. In Atlanta (according to the district’s website), it’s $44,312 and $69,856; in Cleveland (according to its union contract) it’s $36,322 and $70,916. Note: all of these figures are simply salary, these do not include benefits.

. . . Atlanta gets slightly better test scores with slightly poorer students at 60% of the cost of DCPS and Cleveland does about the same with slightly less poor students at 68% of the cost.

Despite DCPS’ reputation for bureaucratic bloat, Atlanta has many more administrators. Cleveland has relatively few.

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Comments

  1. D.C. charters get by on a little less. About $20,000 less.

    What conclusion, I wonder, could be drawn from that fact?

  2. We lived in the DC area for over 20 years and DCPS, like the rest of the DC government, was regarded as a jobs program for the local adults and the method of choice to buy votes for local politicians. Benefits for the students or residents were optional Any dealings with the government were frustrating, at best, and torture, at worst. New residents delayed getting new car tags and licences as long as possible, because the process hurt so much. Waste, fraud, abuse, indifference and incompetence were common. Given the results – usually last or runner-up – on whatever measure of academic performance, DCPS was more of the same. Nothing seems to have changed, except the cost, which always increased. A former head of the local teachers’ union (not the well-publicized one indicted for fraud and embezzlement) was once quoted as saying that “when the students/parents pay union dues, we’ll pay attention to what they want.”

  3. Marktropolis says:

    Coulson conveniently ignores the caveats to the report, which include this zinger from Appendix B: In acknowledging accounting changes in DC, the report says that “These factors contributed to a significant increase in local revenue, expenditure, and per pupil current spending in the District of Columbia from FY 2009 to FY 2010.”

    Also, and the funds for the DC voucher program are fixed, and have no relation to the actual expense of educating the voucher recipient. In other words, while the voucher program may pay $7,500 per year, the cost of educating that student could be over $20K. But we don’t know that because private schools tend to not make that data available.

    And for allen above, if you actually read the report, they don’t differentiate between regular and charter schools – it’s all bundled together.

    And anyone who knows anything in education finance knows that you can’t just take the total expenditures and divide them by the number of students.

    And doesn’t the time period of the report cover Rhee’s tenure as superintendent?

    • Mark Roulo says:

      And anyone who knows anything in education finance knows that you can’t just take the total expenditures and divide them by the number of students.

      Okay, I’ll bite.

      If, as an example I just made up, California spends $50B per year educating 5M students, why is it wrong to say that California spends $10K per student per year?

    • Marketropolic wrote:

      And for allen above, if you actually read the report, they don’t differentiate between regular and charter schools – it’s all bundled together.

      Turns out, Marktropolis, that the Census report isn’t the only source of information about per student funding of charters in D.C.

      And it’s $9,000 per kid per year to charters. That’s the foundation grant.

      Sorry.

  4. DCPS also used to have a huge central office staff, and I’, betting it still does. I remember a comparison between DCPS and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which had almost exactly the same number of students and was demographically similar; the Archdiocese had about 15 and DCPS had about 1400. I’m sure the situation is the same in all urban and large suburban districts.

  5. Roger Sweeny says:

    And doesn’t the time period of the report cover Rhee’s tenure as superintendent?

    It certainly does, but what relevance does that have to the question of relative costs?

    Perhaps you are putting both coulson and rhee into a box called “reformers.” However, they are very different.

    Many of the reformers, like Rhee or Duncan, are lefties who still believe in public schools. They want to change some of the ways of doing things but they think that public schools can do a good job at educating almost everyone. And they think it is worthwhile to keep trying to improve the system.

    Coulson, and commenter allen, think that faith is wrong and dangerous. They think that the social democratic dream of a government-run system which everyone is expected to take part in inevitably fails to achieve its goals, and in fact is often “captured” by its employees, who far from acting in the “public interest” act in their own private interest.

    It is tempting to lump both groups of people together with a single name, “reformers” or even “corporate reformers.” But that is intellectually lazy and factually wrong.

  6. Mark wrote:
    If, as an example I just made up, California spends $50B per year educating 5M students, why is it wrong to say that California spends $10K per student per year?

    Because the reality is Los Altos spent 20K, CMOs spent 10K+, and Oakland spent 4400 (of which $3800/ kid made it to school sites). Looking at something like that on a state level doesn’t work.

    And also because a total budget does not equal “spending” on education as folks think of it. You know, books, teachers, technology, field trips. Some of that is the much bally-hooed central office waste, while the rest is legal reserve requirements, asset depreciation, SpEd incursion and the like.

    Rather than saying, x is too much, it’s probably more helpful to ask, what is the cost of systematically educating individual communities? Or, to put it another way, what is the cost of educating a generation versus incarcerating it?

    • George Larson says:

      Kilian

      asset depreciation?

      What good is asset depreciation in a public agency that does not generate a profit and pays no taxes?

  7. It has been clear for decades that more money looses its effectiveness at some point. In fact it looks to me that, at some point, more money actually leads to poorer outcomes.

    As an average member of the general public, I would say that the entire US public education system is looking more and more like a huge scam. Unions, administrative layers, even teachers: it looks increasingly like taxpayers are just dupes feeding ever more money into a system that educates les and less. Something that can’t go on forever, won’t.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    kilian. The easy equivalence between education and incarceration is over. Done. Dead. Il ne marche pas.
    Chicken/ egg.
    A new schtick is desperately needed.
    Let’s see if I can make this clear. Education is about how much you know. Crime is about what bad stuff you’re willing to do to other people.
    Difficult concept, I know, especially for those who propose additional spending.

  9. And oceans are wet, but there tends to be a wee bit more to them that.

  10. Stuart Buck says:

    The Census figures do not include charter schools at all, either on the expenditure side or the enrollment side.

    The total expenditure figure does, however, include payments to private schools for special ed placements (approximately $180 million per year). If you take that out, DC public schools are actually scraping by with a mere $25,400 or so per student.

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    kilian. To follow a non sequitur analogy, if oceans weren’t wet, they wouldn’t exist. There wouldn’t be a wee bit of a wee bit more of anything.

    I’m reminded of various race hustlers threatening, “If we don’t get….., we can’t be responsible for this summer.”
    More money for teachers and administrators or be very afraid of being killed in your own home.

  12. No, Richard. More money for kids.

  13. I remember a comparison between DCPS and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which had almost exactly the same number of students and was demographically similar; the Archdiocese had about 15 and DCPS had about 1400.

    Yeah, but the Archdiocese has the Pope! (I’m kidding.)

    My district spends $29K per pupil. (Suburban NY. Westchester County.)

  14. Richard Aubrey says:

    Llghtly. Who’s this “we” of whom you speak? If I had to guess, it would be ed union minions.
    Kilian. More money for kids…. Right. As if it would make a difference, after the ‘crats got through with it. See, thing is. We’ve seen this before. Frequently.
    Anyway, the correlation between spending and results is well-known.
    Where I used to live, near a mid-sized midwestern town dying of the dreaded blue disease, the out-county school with the worst results had the highest per-pupil admin expense and the highest per-pupil school board travel budget.
    Only an educator would think we believe him or her to the exclusion of everything else we know.
    The nearest HS to where I now live has considerably lower per-pupil expenditure and regularly makes big numbers at Science Olympiad nationals.

  15. Lightly Seasoned says:

    No, just the English teachers. We’ve had it in for you since the 60′s.

  16. Richard Aubrey says:

    It’s not polite to speak ill of the dead, but it’s only a little ill. Had a good comp teacher in college, Carson C. Hamilton. We had to buy the nineteenth edition of his text. But that was only a venial sin.
    I swear, he thought reading Hemingway made him a man of the world, he who, afaik, hadn’t been more than a week out of school since kindergarten and who was nearing retirement in 1967. When he found I’d read “Death in The Afternoon”, I could do no wrong. I didn’t mention that a friend of my father, who had censored correspondents’ dispatches after D-Day, had opined that Poppa’s biggest problem was discovering he was Ernest Hemingway. But since Hemingway and his driver had coordinated the liberation of Paris from Harry’s Bar, I guess you had to give him some slack.
    Clint Burhans, otoh, “The Would-be Writer”, was a different sort, sort of, sponsoring the judo club and active in ju jitsu (actually, scientific dirty fighting).
    Like to see them, again.
    But in general…they should bring a sack lunch, as the saying goes.

  17. Joe Granada says:

    Wrt teacher salaries, yes of course DC pays more, because real estate prices are much higher there. If I’ve got a choice between taking a job for $40,000 a year in a city where I can buy a $200,000 house a few blocks away, and a $60K job where I have to spend an hour commuting to a $500K house, then why wouldn’t I take the first one?

    • Yeah. That’s got to be it.

      Well, no. It’s much more a matter of the depth of the pockets of the school districts and the political clout of the teacher’s union.