More on D.C. Public School Spending
There's been a lively discussion about this CD post on D.C. public school spending. Whether the per pupil public spending in D.C. is $15,000 or $25,000, and whether certain capital expenditures should be included or not, probably aren't as important as some of the bigger issues that should get more attention than the minor details (although I also provide clarification of the details below):
1. The growth in public school spending at the national level has been staggering. According to the Department of Education (data here), "Total expenditures per pupil in public elementary and secondary schools" increased 234 times between 1919 ($48) and 2006 ($11,257), and current expenditures per pupil has increased 245 times ($40 to $9,683). Over that same period, the CPI (All Items, data here) increased only about 12 times (see graph above).
Back to the details:
2. According to data from the Department of Education (data here, Table 186) for "Current expenditure per pupil in average daily attendance in public elementary and secondary schools," spending per pupil in the D.C. schools was $20,596 in 2006-2007 (measured in constant 2007-2008 dollars), and that was the highest amount in the country and almost twice the national average of $10,720. Whether spending was $20,000 or $25,000 isn't as important as the fact that D.C. public school spending leads the country, when everything is calculated on a consistent basis.
3. From the same table, real spending per D.C. pupil in 1959 was only 15% above the national average and by 2006-2007 D.C. spending was 92% above the national average. Over the last fifty years, real spending per student in D.C. has increased by 6.63 times (from $3,106 to $20,596) since 1959, and that increase is the highest in the country, and compares to an average real increase in spending of 4.37 times between 1959 and 2006.
4. Department of Education data (Table 178) for "Total Expenditures for public elementary and secondary education" shows that the D.C. public schools spent $1,389,995,000 (almost $1.4 billion) for the 2006-2007 school year, which is even higher than the $1.29 billion reported in my last post (based on Andrew Coulson's data).
5. Department of Education data also show that the D.C. schools have one of the lowest high school graduation rates of 65.4% for 2005-2006, a full eight percentage points below the national average of 73.4%.
Bottom Line: The important issues to me should be: a) the significant increase in real spending over time for public schools in general, b) the fact that D.C. public schools spend more than $1 billion per year and lead the country in per pupil spending, c) D.C. schools have had the greatest spending increases over the last 50 years, d) D.C. schools have one of the lowest graduation rates in the country, and e) the resistance by teachers' unions, Democrats (usually) and labor unions to school choice in D.C. and around the country, like the Opportunity Scholarship Program in D.C.