Friday, April 3, 2015

Is $8,804 per pupil enough?

Let me say right up front that we don’t know how much money the government spends on education. "Nobody knows, not even the principal," as scholars Chester Finn and Michael Petrilli put it. "That’s how opaque our system is."

"Because of the various funding streams that feed the system," adds Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute, "discovering exactly how much taxpayers spend per student is more like deciphering a riddle than reading a balance sheet."

Public school finances "make Enron look like a model of transparency," says University of Arkansas education professor Robert Maranto. "Under our highly complex systems of school finance and resource allocations, policy-makers, educators, and taxpayers simply do not know what if any strategy drives particular spending decisions, or how costs and outcomes compare across programs. In public education we are all, quite literally, flying blind."

But for now let's go with per-pupil funding of $8,804, the latest number for Oklahoma provided by the National Education Association. Whether Oklahoma ranks 1st or 50th in education funding, it seems to me that $8,804 per pupil ought to be enough to deliver a quality education. It certainly seems to be enough in Oklahoma’s private schools, which charge roughly $4,500 on average at elementary schools and $6,900 for high school.

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