Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Fuzzy Math 

Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute published an editorial recently in the Washington Post, and followed this up with a detailed blog post, estimating that D.C. spends about $24,000 to educate each child in their public school system. I estimated the number at $12,000. To reach his conclusion Mr. Coulson counts construction dollars and money tied to teacher retirement funds.

He then goes on to say that private schools are spending a little over $14,500 per pupil which makes it appear that these institutions are far more efficient.

However, if he is going to add funds for buildings and retirement accounts then Mr. Coulson must apply the same reasoning to private schools. Costs that would need to be included would be items such as capital campaigns, bank loans, and contributions that were used for facilities. 403(b) or 401(k) contributions from the schools would also be in the mix.

I think that unless Mr. Coulson captures these expenditures then his comparison between public and private costs to educate their children is like, well, between DCPS and charter schools. It doesn't work.

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