Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Accuracy in Academia
For years, school choice opponents have argued that when students leave public schools for private ones with the aid of vouchers, the public school loses money because the dollars spent follow the student.
A scholar from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice argues that it doesn’t have to be that way. “The United States’ average spending per student was $12,450 in 2008-09,”Benjamin Scafidi writes in his study for the Friedman Foundation. “I estimate that 36 percent of these costs can be considered fixed costs in the short run. “
“The remaining 64 percent, or $7,967 per student, are found to be variable costs, or costs that change with student enrollment. “ Scafidi is an economist at Georgia College & State University.
“The implication of this finding is that a school choice program where less than $7,967 per student is redirected from a child’s former public school to another school of his or her parents’ choosing would actually improve the fiscal health of the average public school district,” Scafidi argues. “And, it would provide more resources for students who remain in public schools.”
In other words, the schools can spend less when the child leaves. “Evidence that school districts increased expenditures when the number of students they served significantly decreased does not necessarily mean that they cannot decrease expenditures when students leave,” Scafidi avers. Thus, whether they actually will cut costs is another story.
For example, even without school choice, the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) lost many students whose parents migrated to the suburbs. “ As APS was losing 6.57 percent of its students, it decreased its teacher force by 6.84 percent,” Scafidi notes. “APS also decreased support personnel by 4.3 percent.”
“Thus, APS was able to reduce its teaching plus support personnel by 6.62 percent over this time period—just a bit more than the percentage drop in its student population.”
Nevertheless, “It is worth mentioning that while APS was losing over 6 percent of its student population, it increased the number of administrators (assistant superintendents, area superintendents, assistant principals, etc.) by over 19 percent,” Scafidi does indeed note. Now that’s money worth following.
Sara Cummings is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.
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