Friday, January 7, 2011

Are Public Schools Failing Because We Are Not Spending Enough Money?

The mantra is constantly raised that we do not spend enough money on our schools. When spending cuts are proposed and it could effect schools, the proponent of the measure is demonized and portrayed as a monster. After all, how can we be so cruel to the children? The fact is, we are anything but cruel to our children, especially those in public schools. Private schools spend less per pupil and get better results.

Adam Schaeffer of the CATO Institute last year wrote a paper describing that public school districts drastically understate the amount of money that they spend per pupil. Most of this is due to the fact that they do not report the cost of construction and maintenance on buildings and legacy costs. But these are all important costs that factor into the budget of private schools. So when public schools say that they do not spend that much on their students because they do not have the money, then they are lying.

Real spending per pupil ranges from a low of nearly $12,000 in the Phoenix area schools to a high of nearly $27,000 in the New York metro area. The gap between real and reported per-pupil spending ranges from a low of 23 percent in the Chicago area to a high of 90 percent in the Los Angeles metro region.

It is not even as if this is a local-phenomenon. This is happening in many metropolitan areas (all of the ones that were studied). It is common practice to under-report the budget of a public school district.

Now as for how much public schools spend as compared to private schools:

To put public school spending in perspective, we compare it to estimated total expenditures in local private schools. We find that, in the areas studied, public schools are spending 93 percent more than the estimated median private school.

More money spent and worse results. It's time for education reform, and spending more money obviously is not the answer.

Thanks to the CATO Institute and Adam B. Schaeffer for the quotations from this post.

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