In yesterday’s Washington Post, Andrew Coulson points to some staggering numbers about the cost of public education in Washington, DC:
We’re often told that public schools are underfunded. In the District, the spending figure cited most commonly is $8,322 per child, but total spending is close to $25,000 per child — on par with tuition at Sidwell Friends, the private school Chelsea Clinton attended in the 1990s.
What accounts for the nearly threefold difference in these numbers? The commonly cited figure counts only part of the local operating budget. To calculate total spending, we have to add up all sources of funding for education from kindergarten through 12th grade, excluding spending on charter schools and higher education. For the current school year, the local operating budget is $831 million, including relevant expenses such as the teacher retirement fund. The capital budget is $218 million. The District receives about $85.5 million in federal funding. And the D.C. Council contributes an extra $81 million. Divide all that by the 49,422 students enrolled (for the 2007-08 year) and you end up with about $24,600 per child.
For comparison, total per pupil spending at D.C. area private schools — among the most upscale in the nation — averages about $10,000 less. For most private schools, the difference is even greater.