Sunday, February 21, 2010

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.


31 Comments:

At 2/21/2010 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, when you do DC spending on education, you also have to consider the following which RAISE the actual spending for non-DC cities.

Specifically, state revenues typically support local education in grants and other support in some states by 40 to 50%. In other words, a cities spending would be supplemented by state contributions, which are then SUBTRACTED from city spending.

In the case of DC, it is both a city and a state. It has the overhead of a state (in complying with state regulations) (which in other cases are borne by the state, not a city) and its revenue is treated as both a city and state contribution.

This is more complicated than the post prescribes.

My own view is that this is a meaningless discussion unless you adjust for case mix (number of ESL students, for example), low income mix and mix of students who move during the year (low income students move more than middle and higher income, special ed mix, and general ed composition.

The real issue is outcomes for someone who has the same case mix, and relative effectiveness of programs.

People who believe they have a better plan should be encouraged to put their money where their mouth is: fund experimental programs which take the same mix of students and show differences in outcomes. Don't cream skim.

 
At 2/21/2010 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding spending increases, what you should realize is that DC schools may have been underfunded in the past due to public recognition that they were failing.

A willingness to increase funding, during the BUSH years, is a reflection, not of CPI increase, but the willingness to spend to improve the situation.

Damned if you do, and damned if you don't make changes.
As to levels, ifyou look at statewide (urban and rural) spending for NY and NJ and compare that to DC spending on the federal statistics that are cited, the $1500 difference could very well be explained by case mix.

 
At 2/21/2010 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think comparing the price increase of education from 1919 to date is a valid comparison?

Do you think the product might have changed since 1919. I mean, chemistry classes, I am sure, were not a part of the mix.

If you are going to do price increase changes from 1919 and assume that the product did not change, you might be open to some criticism, don't you think.

But, of course, the price of buggy whips declined as we substituted plastic for leather.

 
At 2/21/2010 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just guessin', but when you did the headline statement that the price of public elementary and secondary school education from 1919 to 2006, you probably did not adjust for the fact that in 1919 a lower percentage of students did not go on to high school.

Not only is the mix not controlled for (share of elementary to secondary education), but the quality of the product changed (chemistry, physics classes, etc.)

But, the real humor is that I dare you to educate a kid on $48 dollars a year in real terms as the 1919 data would indicate.

In fact, why not make one of your kids the experiment. Show me what you can do for a high school education on $48 dollars.

 
At 2/21/2010 12:42 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Pick a different date, say 1947. Since then public school spending has increased 179 times, vs. a 9.4 increase in the CPI.

 
At 2/21/2010 12:44 PM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

One big "elephant in the room" is the family situation of DC school students. The proximity of Uncle Sam's largesse futher exacerbates the emotional distance from aduit males. The chaos of being of being disposed of by fathers at conception is paid for by the remnants of the remainder "family".
Liberal thinking in the family area has contirbuted greatly to the chaos.

 
At 2/21/2010 12:53 PM, Anonymous Andrew Coulson said...

The first of several anonymous posters above asserts:

"The real issue is outcomes for someone who has the same case mix, and relative effectiveness of programs."

The DC voucher program serves only poor DC students, does so at one quarter the cost to taxpayers of the public schools, and raises students' reading performance by two grade levels after just three years (http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2009/12/17/dc-vouchers-solved-generous-severance-for-displaced-workers/).

If you're specifically interested in the special education cost issue, then see the statewide Florida McKay program, a voucher program targeted exclusively at disabled children with IEPs, serving far more such students than does DC, and doing so at an average cost of about $7,500 (http://www.tasb.org/legislative/documents/special_vouchers.pdf). Parents in that program, BTW, are far more satisfied than are those whose special needs children are in public schools.

I know it's hard for people wedded to state schooling to acknowledge these facts, but the sooner that happens, the sooner all children will have access to better educational choices at costs the American people can afford in the long term.

 
At 2/21/2010 1:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Andrew, I am a pragmatist and rationalist, so I looked up a funded study on the DC voucher system.

Here are some results:

After 2 years, there was no statistically significant difference in test scores in
general between students who were offered an OSP scholarship and students who
were not offered a scholarship. Overall, those in the treatment and control groups
were performing at comparable levels in mathematics and reading (table 3).
• The Program had a positive impact on overall parent satisfaction and parent
perceptions of school safety, but not on students’ reports of satisfaction and safety
(tables 4 and 5). Parents were more satisfied with their child’s school and viewed the
school as less dangerous if the child was offered a scholarship. Students had a different
view of their schools than did their parents. Reports of dangerous incidents in school
were comparable for students in the treatment and control groups. Overall, student
satisfaction was unaffected by the Program.

For those other than Andrew, you can find the Bush administration funded study here:

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pdf/20084024.pdf

 
At 2/21/2010 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark, taking your 1947 base, I would be willing to bet that the CPI increase for bachelor degree incomes and Master degree incomes account for the changes in public education CPI.

Most of education costs is the acquisition costs of persons with a bachelors degree. I am sure that bachelor degree CPI has gone up faster than the CPI.

You will still have to add on the changes in product as well: chemistry, sciences, computer labs, ESL mix, and teaching the handicapped.

Now, you could argue we shouldn't do ESL or teach the handicapped. Or that we shouldn't have chemistry, physics, etc, or that the best teachers are those with a two year teaching degree or none at all.

But, if you want to live in that society that underinvests in human capital, we will pay the price for it when our kids can't compete with the Japanese, Germans or Koreans, and Chinese for that matter.

 
At 2/21/2010 2:01 PM, Anonymous Andrew Coulson said...

Dear additional anonymous guy,

You're looking at the old version of the DC voucher study. The new version (http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20094050/pdf/20094050.pdf), published last year by the Dept. of Education under the Obama Administration, reported the effects I described. There were positive effects after 2 years, but they didn't hit the 95% confidence level. After kids are in the program three years, the effects not only hit that confidence level, they are large in size: .42 std devs in reading for kids in private schools for three years.

The effect got bigger each year the kids were in the program. Now do you understand why the Obama administration had to kill it so quickly?

I hope that, in addition to being a rationalist, you're also an empiricist, and that you have more of a heart than do president Obama and Democrats in Congress.

Best,
Andrew

 
At 2/21/2010 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the voucher program, after three years, these are the results of the three year study: an improvement of 3.1 months in reading and no change in math.

After 3 years, there was a statistically significant positive impact on reading test
scores, but not math test scores. Overall, those offered a scholarship were performing
at statistically higher levels in readingequivalent to 3.1 months of additional
learningbut at similar levels in math compared to students not offered a scholarship
(table 3). Analysis in prior years indicated no significant impacts overall on either
reading or math achievement.
• The OSP had a positive impact overall on parents’ reports of school satisfaction
and safety (figures 3 and 4), but not on students’ reports (figures 3 and 4). Parents
were more satisfied with their child’s school (as measured by the percentage giving the
school a grade of A or B) and viewed their child’s school as safer and more orderly if
the child was offered a scholarship. Students had a different view of their schools than
did their parents. Reports of safety and school climate were comparable for students in
the treatment and control groups. Overall, student satisfaction was unaffected by the
Program.
• This same pattern of findings holds when the analysis is conducted to determine
the impact of using a scholarship rather than being offered a scholarship. Fourteen
percent of students in our impact sample who were randomly assigned by lottery to
receive a scholarship and who responded to year 3 data collection chose not to use their
scholarship at any point over the 3-year period after applying to the Program.1 We use
a common statistical technique to take those “never users” into account; it assumes that
the students had zero impact from the OSP, but it does not change the statistical
significance of the original impact estimates. Therefore, the positive impacts on
reading achievement, parent views of school safety and climate, and parent views of
1 This 14 percent “never user” rate among year 3 respondents in the impact sample differs from the 25 percent “never user” rate for the impact
sample as a whole (Figure 1) because scholarship “never users” in the impact sample responded to year 3 data collection events at lower rates
than did scholarship “ever users.”
xviii
satisfaction all increase in size, and there remains no impact on math achievement and
no overall impact on students’ perceptions of school safety and climate or satisfaction
from using an OSP scholarship.

 
At 2/21/2010 2:17 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

But, if you want to live in that society that underinvests in human capital, we will pay the price for it when our kids can't compete with the Japanese, Germans or Koreans, and Chinese for that matter.

US spends more on education than any other country. We also enjoy poorer outcomes in education. When that was the case for health care, progressives called for massive change but no additional money. Why is it different for education?

I think the solution for both problems is the same. Attach the money to the consumer and let them choose how to spend it.

 
At 2/21/2010 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the DC voucher program is not unique in it's achievements as this short video on school choice, featuring Milton Friedman, shows:

Milton Friedman - School Choice

 
At 2/21/2010 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When that was the case for health care, progressives called for massive change ...

They also give lip service to "competition" when arguing for a "public option" in health care, but when someone argues for competition in education they quickly change their tune.

 
At 2/21/2010 2:23 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Mark, for your detail #1, I don't see staggering jumps in per pupil expenditures over time in constant dollars when looking at column 4, Table 182. For example, the educational costs have approximately doubled from when I graduated high school in 1973 ($6193) to 2007 ($12,463). I remember buying gasoline for 49 cents-a-gallon that year and I paid $2.59 yesterday; a lot of other items were a whole lot cheaper then, too. Am I missing something in my analysis?

I agree that D.C.’s expenditures are way out of line with the rest of the U.S. Why is that?

I doubt we can compare educational dollars from 1920 to 2010 any more than we can compare an agricultural-age job market in 1920 to an informational-age job market in 2010. Similarly, I doubt we can even compare 1973 to 2010. That makes me feel old. I think I will take my Geritol and lay down for a nap now.

 
At 2/21/2010 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Stanford University study -- which compared kids who won seats in charter-school lotteries with kids who lost and subsequently enrolled at traditional public schools -- was the most comprehensive look at the city's charter schools to date.

It found that students who win spots in charter schools outgain those who don't by 5 points in math and 3.6 points in reading on state tests in every year from fourth to eighth grades.

The cumulative difference means students who attend charter schools from kindergarten through eighth grade can close about 86 percent of the achievement gap in math with students in a high-performing, suburban district like Scarsdale.

They can close the achievement gap in reading by about 66 percent.

Landing a seat in a charter high school also raises the likelihood that students will graduate with a Regents diploma by 7 percent for each year they spend at the school, the study found.

"The results suggest that the charter schools are starting with the most disadvantaged students in New York City, and they're able to close the achievement gap very considerably," said Stanford economics professor Caroline Hoxby, who wrote the report.

The study compared the achievement of about 21,000 kids in city charter schools with that of about 19,000 kids who applied to but couldn't attend charter schools because of a lack of seats.

The apples-to-apples comparison allowed researchers to conclude that charter schools weren't getting better results by skimming the best students -- as some critics have charged.

New York Post

 
At 2/21/2010 2:40 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

After 3 years, there was a statistically significant positive impact on reading test
scores, but not math test scores.


So let's say this is the worst thing that could happen - effectively no change. They were able to deliver the same product for MUCH less money, doesn't this mean we could go to that system 100% and save a boatload of cash? And you're STILL arguing against it?

 
At 2/21/2010 2:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope that, in addition to being a rationalist, you're also an empiricist, and that you have more of a heart than do president Obama and Democrats in Congress.

The left is always posturing as the champions of the disenfranchised and the downtrodden when, in fact, they are responsible for the perpetuation of so much misery and hopelessness. They work tirelessly to keep inner-city kids in failing schools, resisting every effort to empower parents who seek a better education, and by extension a better life, for their children. Why? Because the welfare state needs clients. It withers in the presence of strong, independent people able to make their own way in the world. Further, the public school monopoly offers the left a chance to indoctrinate entire generations, helping to set the stage for the kind of socialist CHANGE they HOPE for. We destroyed the plantations of the antebellum South, it's time to destroy the left's modern plantations in America's inner-cities.

 
At 2/21/2010 3:00 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

Walt, I don't understand your comment. What cost $.49 in 1973 would cost $2.35 in 2008.

Column 4 was inflation adjusted, but your gas quote was not.

 
At 2/21/2010 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark,
The other problem with your CPI measure is that you are equating CPI for public education with CPI which includes imported manufactured items, which have been declining.
In addition, you might want to look at the CPI for services, and there is also a separate CPI for private education. I have not been able to find it in BEA tables, but I would guess the CPI for private education (if you adjust for mix, esl, handicap training, special ed) doesn't differ from public education, given that both use as inputs bachelor degree and master degree candidates.

 
At 2/21/2010 4:06 PM, Anonymous Andrew Coulson said...

The 3 month reading advantage is NOT for kids who've been in the DC voucher program for 3 years, that's the third year study result for students in the program for 1, 2, OR 3 years.

As I've already pointed out, the effect for kids actually in the program for 3 years is a large 2 grade level boost in reading.

Consider what the effect would have been if President Obama and Democrats in Congress had not killed this program. Consider how much these poor children--and others--would have benefitted given their entire k-12 experience in private schools, instead of just 3 years.

And then explain to your consccience why you are defending the DC public school system which does so much worse at 4 times the cost to taxpayers.

 
At 2/21/2010 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Andrew,

I was simply quoting from the report which says the difference is 3.1 months.

Can you point me to the part which says there is two grade level differences (page cite please).

 
At 2/21/2010 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Andrew,
Can you point me to any federal statistics that show DC costs are 4 times the average. Page cite please.

 
At 2/21/2010 5:03 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

Coulson never claims DC spends 4 times the average. He said DC spends 4 times the cost of the private schools the kids are attending.

 
At 2/21/2010 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In looking further on the 2009 report, the American Association of University Women reported:

The DC voucher program has not been shown to improve academic achievement. In April 2009, the Department of Education released a new report which found no improvement in academic achievement for those students receiving vouchers from public schools in need of improvement – the target audience of the voucher program.1 An earlier report from June 2008 found that “after 2 years, there was no statistically significant difference in test scores in general between students who were offered an OSP [Opportunity Scholarship Program] scholarship and students who were not offered a scholarship.” In addition, while “the Program had a positive impact on overall parent satisfaction and parent perceptions of school safety … [s]tudents had a different view of their schools than did their parents.” Overall, student satisfaction was unaffected by the voucher program.2 In addition, a November 2007 GAO report revealed numerous problems with the District of Columbia voucher program, including a lack of detailed fiscal policies and not adhering to procedures for making scholarship payments. The report also found that many of the participating schools conducted classes in unsuitable learning environments taught by teachers lacking bachelor’s degrees. In many cases, parents were not informed of these deficiencies.3

 
At 2/21/2010 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@masterjosh, Do the private schools they are attending required to take and do they provide ESL, handicapped and special ed.

Apples to Apples, not Apples to Oranges.

 
At 2/21/2010 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I figured out how Andrew made his claim: he looked at subgroups within the study, quoting the Heritage Foundation now

"girls, students who entered the program at higher achievement levels, and students who began in grades K-8."

Quoting further from the Heritage Foundation:

"The offer or use of a scholarship did not lead to a positive effect for students who had left public schools classified as "in need of improvement" under federal law."

Cream skimming.

Just shows how you can mislead the public if the full story doesn't come out.

 
At 2/21/2010 5:25 PM, Anonymous Andrew Coulson said...

Table 3.3, reading, Cohort 1 (i.e., been in the program for 3 years): .42 std dev. positive and statistically sig. effect.

In the text, it is explained that this corresponds to a 19 month effect--which is slightly more than two school years.

As for the subsample criticisms, these are playing with stats: when you break the sample down you reduce sample size which reduces statistical power, which makes it difficult to find any significant effect.

We're already breaking the sample down looking only at the students who've had a full three years in private schools, but the effect is still significant there, because it is so large.

Opponents killed this program because the longer it ran the bigger the sample sizes would be and the bigger the effects would get independent of sample size. They'd have had absolutely nowhere to hide.

Google "comparing public, private, and market schools" if you'd like a lit review of the research in this field.

 
At 2/21/2010 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Andrew,

Looks like the Heritage Foundation got it wrong or made a statistical mistake of extending the observations of positive effects for subgroups of girls, students who entered at higher achievement levels, and students who began in K-8 and no effects for students who had left public schools classified as "in need of improvement" under federal law.

 
At 2/21/2010 5:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

... the American Association of University Women reported: The DC voucher program has not been shown to improve academic achievement.

Nice try.

A U.S. Education Department study released yesterday found that District students who were given vouchers to attend private schools outperformed public school peers on reading tests, findings likely to reignite debate over the fate of the controversial program.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the first federal initiative to spend taxpayer dollars on private school tuition, was created by a Republican-led Congress in 2004 to help students from low-income families. Congress has cut off federal funding after the 2009-10 school year unless lawmakers vote to reauthorize it.

Overall, the study found that students who used the vouchers received reading scores that placed them nearly four months ahead of peers who remained in public school. However, as a group, students who had been in the lowest-performing public schools did not show those gains. There was no difference in math performance between the groups.

Washington Post

Maybe George Soros has a study he would like to share.

 
At 2/21/2010 6:21 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

I can't speak to DC, but New York has had some success with charter schools teaching special ed students with vouchers: http://www.harlemsuccess.org/applyfaqs

 

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