Saturday, February 20, 2010

DC Public Schools: $1.29 Billion, $28,170 per Pupil


The Cato Institutes's Andrew Coulson had crunched the numbers and finds that the District of Columbia public school system spent almost $1.3 billion educating 45,858 students for the 2008-2009 school year (data here).

That works out to spending of $28,169 per student (and that's for last year, spending is probably higher this year), which is almost as much as Harvard tuition of $32,550 for the 2009 academic year (data here), see chart above. And the D.C. district's annual budget for 2008-2009 of $1.29 billion places it just slightly below the annual GDP of the entire country of Belize (data here) in 2008, see chart above.

35 Comments:

At 2/20/2010 11:21 AM, Anonymous morganovich said...

at this price, you could go to many of the best boarding schools in the country.

small wonder they shut down the DC voucher system. at prices like this, imagine what they would have to compete with in a couple of years.

$560k a year per class of 20 buys a helluva lot of education.

love to see some stats on how much of this is eaten by layers of bureaucracy, middle management, vice principals, and superintendents.

 
At 2/20/2010 11:28 AM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

$28,170 per pupil is not quite enough for D.C. schools. The Capital Gains Program will pay DC middle school students up to $200 a month. How? Good grades, attendance and behavior as well as completing homework.

 
At 2/20/2010 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The D.C. school system could probably contract out a students education for less than the $28,000 and pocket the difference.

 
At 2/20/2010 11:46 AM, Blogger Gene Hayward said...

Dr Perry,
I just wanted to thank you for your blog. I am a high school AP Economics teacher and I find I use your blog resources more than any other blog I visit on a daily basis. The graphs are very readable and the info is concise. I often use them as a warm up excercise in my classroom. I appreciate your effort in constantly updating the blog...

Gene Hayward
www.haywardecon.com
www.haywardeconblog.blogspot.com

 
At 2/20/2010 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program delivers better results at a fraction of the cost, which is why the Democrats and the unions are desperate to kill it. One wonders, just how many children's futures are these people willing to destroy in pursuit of their collectivist agenda?

... the Opportunity Scholarship Program offering vouchers for poor students to opt out of rotten public schools ... Republicans passed the program in 2004 ... and it has been extremely popular. Families receive up to $7,500 a year to attend the school of their choice. That's a real bargain ... A 2008 Department of Education evaluation found that participants had higher reading scores than their peers who didn't receive a scholarship, and there are four applicants for each voucher.

Ms. Rhee is working to reform all D.C. public schools, which in 2007 ranked last in math and second-to-last in reading among all U.S. urban school systems on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress. Without the vouchers, more than 80% of the 1,700 kids would have to attend public schools that haven't made "adequate yearly progress" under No Child Left Behind. Remember all of those Members of Congress standing and applauding on Tuesday as Mr. Obama called for every American child to get some education beyond high school? These are the same Members who protect and defend a D.C. system in which about half of all students fail even to graduate from high school.

Obama's School Choice, WSJ

 
At 2/20/2010 2:35 PM, Blogger OA said...

There was a once in a blue moon chance to cut some of the administrative bloat out of school districts around the country.

But of course the "stimulus" bill threw a lifeline to all the administrators who have zero impact on the quality of education.

I'd like to see just one reporter question the claim that teacher's jobs were saved. What school district couldn't cut 10% to 20% off the top without ever needing to impact direct classroom expenses?

 
At 2/20/2010 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would like to see how much it cost the Beverly Hills school district to educate a child.

A bit of racism if you think that DC should not spend as much as 90210. Of course, it spends considerably less, as it spends considerably less than income adjusted suburban school districts.

 
At 2/20/2010 3:19 PM, Blogger randian said...

John Stossel had the head of the DC teacher's union on his show this last Thursday (2/19/10). The mendacity of the man was shocking. He was also extremely rude, constantly talking over John and other guests.

 
At 2/20/2010 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Misleading post.

If you go back into the data and the articles, you would find:

1. The data is not comparable to other city data. If you look at city data, it includes costs just for the city. It does NOT include STATE education overhead.

2. If you were to use comparable data, it would be city data to city data, excluding overhead that would normally be attributed to a STATE.

Why doesn't anyone ever go and look at data and question it?

 
At 2/20/2010 3:24 PM, Blogger randian said...

Remember all of those Members of Congress standing and applauding on Tuesday as Mr. Obama called for every American child to get some education beyond high school?

And if every American child isn't smart enough to handle it? What Obama wants isn't possible. There is also the matter that if the government subsidizes college even more to get more children in college, it will only make college more expensive.

Of course, it spends considerably less, as it spends considerably less than income adjusted suburban school districts.

DC spends less than suburban school districts? What are you smoking?

 
At 2/20/2010 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Randian, I went to the California education database for spending for students by zip and school district. Some more remote districts, like Desert Valley, spend $30k per student, not including state administrative overhead.
The Stoessel data, by the way, places DC at $15k, but no one seems to want to look at data.

 
At 2/20/2010 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is interesting how easily people uncritically accept data without doing their own research.

Here is a report showing that general education cost per Student in DC was $9k; $12k when you include ESL (which is a cost established surburban communities do not face); and $17.4K when you include special education.

Surburan school districts (Arlington and Alexandria VA) had comparable costs of $18.2 and !7.9 respectively.

As mentioned earlier, VA STATE education costs are not include, but since DC has equivalent STATE costs, they are included in their numbers.

Here is the paper with the information: http://www.21csf.org/csf-home/DocUploads/DataShop/DS_86.pdf

I really think that if you do not care to do your own research and simply uncritically accept this misleading information on this post you are seeking to confirm a bias. Examine yourself.

 
At 2/20/2010 4:40 PM, Blogger OA said...

Anonymous said...
Misleading post.

If you go back into the data and the articles, you would find:

1. The data is not comparable to other city data.


Who is comparing DC to any city other than you?

On an absolute basis, it is outrageous spending. I could care less how DC ranks relative to other cities or city plus state info, which are also ridiculously expensive in most cases.

It's outrageously expensive for the results by any reasonable measure.

If you gave people the option of taking a $10,000 or $15,000 refundable tax credit to home school their kids rather than put them in public school, I'd bet the number of takers would be astounding. In many cases, that second income could be given up.

 
At 2/20/2010 4:46 PM, Blogger Tom said...

If you question the figures, see Andrew Coulson's explanation, and look at the Excel spreadsheet he provides. Similar results were confirmed last year. He invites any DC official or journalist to discuss the results with him. He said he had one taker, who fell silent upon reviewing the spreadsheet. Don't cast aspersions until you do your own homework.

Every time I look into issue details, I find the liberal case to be mistaken, to be kind.

 
At 2/20/2010 5:13 PM, Blogger juandos said...

William Voegeli over at City Journal has an interesting comparison:

The Big-Spending, High-Taxing, Lousy-Services Paradigm
California taxpayers don’t get much bang for their bucks

 
At 2/20/2010 6:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't rely on Coulson.

He hasn't disputed this data, and he's been caught in the past lying and having to retract his statements:

Voucher Group Defends Coulson’s Deception
Submitted by Kevin on September 21, 2006 - 11:31am
UPDATE: Within hours of this post, Cato removed the offending article from its website.

A few days ago Right Wing Watch noted that Cato’s Andrew Coulson was caught falsely casting aspersions on an academic research center in Indiana. The Center for Evaluation and Education Policy recently released a survey that found falling public support for vouchers. Unwilling to believe the results, Coulson launched an untruthful ad hominem attack on CEEP claiming that their study couldn’t be trusted. Now, Clint Bolick’s Alliance for School Choice has stepped up to defend Coulson.

The folks over at PFAW's blog must have at least pulled a muscle when they stretched to take a swipe at Cato's Andrew Coulson. Here's PFAW's account: Earlier this month, Andrew wrote a column in the Indianapolis Star critical of Indiana University's Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. CEEP periodically polls Indianans on school choice, and recent poll results have shown declining support for school choice among respondents. Andrew's principal complaints: CEEP's financial ties to IU's Department of Education make the group biased against school choice, and the question design was flawed.

CEEP's Jonathan Plucker fired back that CEEP is financially independent of IUDOE; that the costs of the poll are likewise paid by CEEP to prevent any hint of bias; and that CEEP works with outside polling experts to make sure the results are accurate and reliable.

Bolick’s group , does not dispute that “Andrew” was lying. Instead, they praise him for issuing a purported retraction, to which they provide a link.

However, PFAW oddly fails to mention that, five days after the column ran in the Indy Star, Coulson subsequently posted this on Cato's blog.

Sure enough, there is a post on Cato’s blog, dated 9/8, in which Coulson acknowledges his error:

In a recent op-ed for the Indianapolis Star, I wrote that Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) had a vested interest in finding school choice to be unpopular with voters — because it was a part of the University’s Department of Education, and that department could well be rendered obsolete under a large scale school choice program. As it turns out, the Center is largely financially independent of the Department, and so would not likely go down with the ship under a voucher or education tax credit program.

But on that same day, Coulson’s column, including the passage he admits is false, was posted on Cato’s website, where it still appeared without the correction nearly two weeks later.

Coulson himself may have apologized, but Cato and the Alliance for School Choice don’t seem to have a problem perpetuating his false allegations.

 
At 2/20/2010 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So far, no one has disputed the data showing that DC costs are comparable to other suburbs and that the costs are not $28k, but half that.

Here is the link re DC costs comparing it to other suburbs:
http://www.21csf.org/csf-home/DocUploads/DataShop/DS_86.pdf

 
At 2/20/2010 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Misleading Carpe Diem Post (continued)

Here is a link from Federal Statistics by State (including DC)
showing that this post is false and misleading:

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d08/tables/dt08_182.asp

DC costs per pupil are about %15k; NY state is $15k and New Jersey is $16k.

 
At 2/20/2010 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A bit of racism if you think that DC should not spend as much as 90210.

What a f-ing troll. It's racism if DC spends less than 90210? Really? So, those who have worked hard and had success should not be allowed to leverage that success to their children's advantage, no matter what color they are? Wow, somebody call the Handicapper General.

What about the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program that delivers a better education for half the cost, is that racist?

Stick it comrade. Fire up the Prius and take yourself and your bleary eyed offspring off to the gulag.

 
At 2/20/2010 8:19 PM, Anonymous Benny "Tell It LIke It Is Man" Cole said...

While I think DC should be more efficient, there is no sureness that the full cost of a Harvard education is covered by tuition.
In other words, Harvard, thanks to an enormous endowment, may spend a lot more than $30+k per student.

Wonder how much per student is spent by the University of Michigan-Flint?

Way too much? Fpr the results? Or the quality of teaching?

 
At 2/20/2010 8:23 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


John Stossel had the head of the DC teacher's union on his show this last Thursday (2/19/10). The mendacity of the man was shocking. He was also extremely rude, constantly talking over John and other guests.

They're showing mutual respect for Murdoch's folks who do the same thing. Besides, that station wasn't exactly going to give that guy a fair shake anyhow.

 
At 2/20/2010 8:37 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"So far, no one has disputed the data showing that DC costs are comparable to other suburbs and that the costs are not $28k, but half that"...

Yeah nothing like another credible Teamsters outfit to get one's info from...

What's next? The New York Times? Wikipedia?

Gee! I wonder what the WaPo has to say?

The Real Cost Of Public Schools...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

We're often told that public schools are underfunded. In the District, the spending figure cited most commonly is $8,322 per child, but total spending is close to $25,000 per child -- on par with tuition at Sidwell Friends, the private school Chelsea Clinton attended in the 1990s.

What accounts for the nearly threefold difference in these numbers? The commonly cited figure counts only part of the local operating budget. To calculate total spending, we have to add up all sources of funding for education from kindergarten through 12th grade, excluding spending on charter schools and higher education. For the current school year, the local operating budget is $831 million, including relevant expenses such as the teacher retirement fund. The capital budget is $218 million. The District receives about $85.5 million in federal funding. And the D.C. Council contributes an extra $81 million. Divide all that by the 49,422 students enrolled (for the 2007-08 year) and you end up with about $24,600 per child.

For comparison, total per pupil spending at D.C. area private schools -- among the most upscale in the nation -- averages about $10,000 less. For most private schools, the difference is even greater.


Well dang! Would you look at that!

 
At 2/20/2010 8:42 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"They're showing mutual respect for Murdoch's folks who do the same thing. Besides, that station wasn't exactly going to give that guy a fair shake anyhow"...

That's right sethstorm, there's no Keith Olbermann at Fox to carry the clown over the rough spots...

 
At 2/20/2010 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Juandos, You should look at who authored the WAPO editorial piece you quoted as a source: the same person, Coulson! Quote yourself as a source.

Go to the Federal Statistics that compare all states and tell me a different story than one that says its as was said earlier.

Here are the federal statistics gathered by the Department of Education under the Bush Administration:

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d08/tables/dt08_1

Instead of quoting Coulson quoting himself as an authority, why not use the federal statistics.

Answer: you can't fudge them.

 
At 2/20/2010 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coulsons stats, if you read them, are such glorious exaggerations that a decent accountant would laugh at them.

For example, treating the entire pension fund as a cost in one year. Sort of like saying the cost of running the federal government in one year is the cost of operating one year and then including all future social security payments for the next 20 years, or adding the entire federal debt to one year.

He also adds federal funding to the cost; but, when a state receives federal funding, and passes it down to the city, that is not included either.

He also treats capital budgets as operating budgets, and he is not comparing this to other cities, or even a charter school which has a capital budget, to make this statement.

You can go on and on. It is so obvious.

If you want to be fooled, you have a right to be fooled. Just don't try to fool others and expect to get away with it.

Just look at the federal statistics.

 
At 2/20/2010 11:52 PM, Anonymous EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy said...

Banging out a naive search on google (I was looking for figures from the part of Texas where I grew up and my nieces and nephews still attend), the first link I found was http://www.texasisd.com/artman/exec/view.cgi?archive=29&num=69821 which puts DC third out of 51 states and the district.

The scale of the numbers reported therein are comparable to what I recall from the last time I looked at this stuff, and rather lower than those reported here. Perhaps capital costs have been removed.

Sourcing and methodology are unclear.

 
At 2/21/2010 1:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He also treats capital budgets as operating budgets ...

Whew, that's a relief, as a taxpayer I thought I'd have to pay those capital budgets as well.

I think the point, which you keep trying to avoid, is that the taxpayer is on the hook for all of the spending associated with the public education system. And while it's true that private schools also have capital budgets, the cost to the taxpayer for the DC voucher plan is still only $7500 per pupil and it delivers better results. So stop jousting with windmills and address the real issue.

 
At 2/21/2010 6:16 AM, Blogger randian said...

The reason capital budgets are treated as operating budgets is because that's how government accounting works. In government accounting, capital items are expensed all in a single year, and are not expensed against the budget in future years. Same goes for other things that should ordinarily be expensed over multiple years, like pensions. Yes, that would be illegal if done in the private sector, there cost of capital items must be spread out over the tax-code life of the item. Coulson is merely being consistent with the accounting treatment the government itself uses.

 
At 2/21/2010 8:04 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"@Juandos, You should look at who authored the WAPO editorial piece you quoted as a source: the same person, Coulson! Quote yourself as a source"...

And you point is besides your unattributed whine about Coulson's alledged deception?

After all the WaPo has legions of editors and fact checkers, right?

"Go to the Federal Statistics that compare all states and tell me a different story than one that says its as was said earlier"...

Why should these supposed federal statistics be any more believable than Coulson?

I mean after all there's no Constitutional reason for the federal government to be involed in local schools in the first place...

 
At 2/21/2010 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to EscapedWest of the Big Muddy,

Well, it looks like you agree with me. Your article in the Texas paper reports that:

"$13,446-per-pupil spending in 2006 ranked the District as the third highest in the country."

Quite a bit different than $28k per person.


Folks, if you want to self-deceive yourself to support a fairytale view of the world: go right ahead.

But, don't expect this rational conservative to let lies go uncorrected. There is enough for rational discourse without people making up and slanting stuff to make a point.

$28k is far different that %15-17k.
Particularly when NY, NJ and other east coast states rank in the same range per the federal statistics.

 
At 2/21/2010 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is another quote from the Texas article:

"New York led all other states and Washington, D.C., in public school spending for the second straight year," the New York Post (4/2, Gonen) points out. The state spent "$14,884 -- 63 percent higher than the national average." Placing second was New Jersey, which spent "$14,630 per kid."

According to the Washington Times (4/2, Fagan), the "$13,446-per-pupil spending in 2006 ranked the District as the third highest in the country." The survey also that "public school systems across the country received $521.1 billion from all sources in 2006, a 6.7 percent increase from 2005," with roughly "47 percent of the money" coming from "state governments, 44 percent from local sources, and nine percent from the federal government."

 
At 2/21/2010 11:56 AM, Anonymous EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy said...

"Anonymous said...

to EscapedWest of the Big Muddy,

Well, it looks like you agree with me. Your article in the Texas paper reports that:"


Um...no.

Third highest spending and abysmal result is nothing to brag about.

I was looking for Texas because I know that they have a uniform funding formula (thus no suburban vs. city vs rural funding differences), and that they consistently turn out kids who can read and cipher.

And while I could see the point of not counting capital cost in a longitudinal comparison, the idea that the DC school district should need credit for the operating costs usually borne by state level bureaucracies may suggest a big part of the problem with education in this country today: low tooth to tail ratios.

 
At 2/21/2010 10:09 PM, Blogger Nikonman said...

One of the arguments used for revamping the U.S. healthcare system is the notion that we spend more per capita than any other nation, yet we have worse "outcomes".

If that is true, then I would expect anyone who makes the argument for changing the healthcare system will surely want to make the same argument here in education, that we spend far too much on education with poorer outcomes and therefore the entire system should be scrapped and we should start over.

 
At 2/23/2010 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll sign up for that Nikonman. But unlike healthcare, there are large parts of the education system that are relatively efficient and thus not in need of being overhauled. According to...
http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d08/tables/dt08_182.asp
that somebody above linked to, Utah only spends $6629/kid. That seems like a reasonable amount to spend on a kid's education. The $16587 from Jersey on the other hand isn't. I mean that's $132580 per class of 20. Figure a teacher makes 60k including benefits and the school costs $150/sf to build and is financed at 6%. Then figure each classroom is 30x30 and say each class has 30x30 worth of hallway, gymnasium, etc and that's another $16000/yr. That leaves $56580 to pay for administration, maintenance, and special ed needs for that class of 20. There might be a little fat in there, but not too much, and it is a comparable tuition to non-prestigious private schools.

 
At 8/07/2010 4:07 PM, Blogger John W. said...

If I am not mistaken, Coulson has included the costs of operating the federally-funded free-lunch-free-breakfast program, something which private schools do not provide (one more way in which public schools are being asked to fill in the gaps in society). There are also school buses. Private schools usually do not operate a transportation system. Private schools do not provide textbooks or athletic uniforms. The comparison of private schools to public schools as always is comparing apples to oranges. The biggest difference is the vast differences in number and size of facilities involved in serving hundreds of thousands of times more students. Coulson is including costs relating to this which far exceed all economies of scale of scale, in fact reversing them. Just looking at building operating costs alone, a facility which serves 3,000 students for example does not have a smaller cost per pupil compared to one which serves 300. In fact, those costs per pupil would be far higher. No economy of scale.

 

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