• Correction on DC School Spending

      On my show last night -- which re-runs at 10pm tonight on FBN -- I said that Washington DC gives voucher schools $7,500 per student, but DC's public schools cost twice that much: $15,000.

      The $15,000 number has been cited by congressmen and newspapers like the WSJ and the Denver Post. It comes from the the National Center for Education Statistics, and the Census.

      Unfortunately, it's also wrong. Or at least very misleading, since it ignores major sources of spending. As CATO Education scholar Andrew Coulson explains:

      DC also has a “state” level bureaucracy that spends nearly $200 million annually on k-12 programs, and the city spends another $275 million or so on school construction, school facilities modernization, and other so-called “capital” projects.

      But those aren't included in the regular spending figures.

      The $15,000 statistic is also misleading because it includes money for kids in charter schools, even though those schools are not guaranteed a student base and so are forced to be much more efficient than regular public schools.

      The real figure? $26,000 for each student signed up at a DC public school. $28,000 for each student who actually attended. Some might say that's an unfair number because it includes special education students that the private schools supposedly won't take. But even if you drop the costs of special education students, DC still spends $23,000 per kid.

      You know public education is a mess when hardly anyone can keep track of what schools really spend. As Coulson tells me:

      School district budgets are so convoluted it’s almost as if they’re made to be confusing... DC has split up its education spending into seven different budgets, all of which go to k-12 public education, but only one of which is called “the DC Public School budget.

      Oh, and the $7,500 for voucher schools? Turns out that the average voucher school only charges $6,620 (many are catholic schools.) So they cost a quarter of what public schools do, but still they do better!

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