Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Let's Talk About That $10,000 Per Student Figure, Too

Yesterday, over at the Washington Policy Blog, Liv Finne repeated a useful lie:
Cuts to I-728 spending have required school districts to think more carefully how to spend their ample resources, in 2008-9 at $10,274 per pupil.
....which is a great number to use if you're, say, Liv Finne and trying to make a point, but which most any objective observer of reality would question.

Me, I'm a biased subjective observer; let's drill down into that number a bit and see how she came up with it.

She first sources the number in this post from early September, using a page from the Office of Fiscal Management site. That's a good source. The $10,274 number comes if you go all the way to the bottom right, and that's the first problem: that column is clearly labeled "District Budgeted", which means that the amount very likely changed as districts made mid-year cuts last year. Strike 1.

She's also conflated the state, federal, and local spending. Why does that matter? Federal revenues don't flow evenly to every district--impact aid districts, for example, would receive more of that, while others receive less--which throws the whole statewide "per student" argument on its head. Strike 2.

And then there's that local money I mentioned; look up the levy equalization keyword that I've written about before and you'll understand why this metric is so damned slippery. She's essentially arguing that Bellevue and Stehekin are comparable, and that just isn't so. Strike 3.



Anonymous Anonymous said...


So Medical Lake received $9,279 per student for operating (capital funds elsewhere provided) rather than the $10,274 cited.

How does knowing the exact number address the issue of adequacy?

In inflation-adjusted dollars, education spending per student has increased in the last twenty years.

So talk instead about changing obligations, unfilled vacancies at the wage and benefit offered, education-unique inflation of costs, or whatever.

It seems nit-picky to quibble over the integrity of the number. Lets grant that it is a big number and that your class's share of that total is a quarter million dollars.

What next?


12:05 PM  

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