When you put the education costs per pupil in perspective not only are there big differences between states, but the public and private sectors glean unexpected results.
The Cato Institute found public schools can be 93 percent more expensive than private schools. They contend the public school districts are anything but transparent and this creative accounting lends itself to muddy decision making by citizens within a state and district.
“A sobering 27 cents of every dollar collected at the state and local level is consumed by the government K-12 education system,” the Cato study reveals.
When the country begun its budget process for the 2010 school year they were collectively short by $158 billion. Now that America is in the middle of a lingering recession school districts and parents have some serious issues to contend with- raise taxes or cut services. The news is even more depressing as the unemployment and housing prices remain stagnant leaving less funds for public schools.
The Los Angeles, California Metro K-12 schools “average real per-pupil spending of $19,000 a stunning 90 percent higher than the $10,000 the districts claim to spend. In addition, real public school spending is 127 percent higher than the estimated median private school spending of $8, 400,” Cato’s report stated. The report also claims the figure is actually around the $24,000 per pupil when you add all the real costs to operate a business – salary, operating expenses, health care, pensions and school supplies.
Another significant issue the Los Angeles Unified School District's Robert F. Kennedy school complex has to deal with is the state-of-the-art high school was supposed to cost $309 million. However the price tag is reaching past the $578 million mark.
Sloppy management of the project has resulted in costly lawsuits as well as under-and over-payments to vendors all the while leaving the project incomplete.
In fiscal year 2008, LAUSD budgeted $29,790 per student, however on their website the district claims to spend roughly $10,000 per pupil leaving a 196 percent discrepancy.
It is this kind of untruthful accounting that has left public schools across the nation in shambles. The faulty reporting of per pupil spending doesn’t only occur in underachieving school districts, but it happens in all districts, according to the Cato Institute.
“School districts often exclude major expenses – like capital costs for new buildings or interest payments on the debt they carry – when calculating the per-student spending figure they publicize. Sometimes they even leave out pension payments and insurance benefits for teachers” according to an Orange County Register article. “This information is essential for putting our fiscal house in order.”
The Southern California paper continues, “It's so simple as to seem trivial. To get control of a budget, you need to know how much you make, how much you spend, and what you're spending it on. American taxpayers spend around $600 billion a year on K-12 public education. A sobering 27 cents of every tax dollar collected at the state or local level is consumed by the government-run K-12 education system, versus 8 cents for Medicaid.”
Let’s compare the public schools to their private school counterparts. A typical Los Angeles private school spends less than $8,500 and offers parents more bang for the buck. Especially since the drop out rate for the LA high schools hovers around the 50 percent mark.
However, teachers and administrators claim the diversity in the student body (Los Angeles has a very large Hispanic student body) accounts for the large portion of the failing grades for students. Other federal data points out that private school voucher programs result in lower costs in per pupil spending, while improving student achievement.
It’s about time California and other states begin to look really hard at the money they are spending on K-12 education and look for ways to tighten their belts otherwise America’s students will receive more than a failing grade.
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