Wednesday, August 4, 2010

School Spending

Here's a nice little "exposé" from the CATO Institute about school spending and how they hide their "true" expenses from the public.

While I agree that all expenses should be published, I don't think that all should be lumped into the per-pupil numbers in the way suggested. I think it's perfectly appropriate to have them separated.

Should everything be clear? Yes. Should everything be understandable by the average taxpayer? No, because the average taxpayer doesn't know jump about financing and accounting. The ones who do know something about it (not pros mind you but knowledgeable) should be able to figure things out on their own and the information should be available.

The comparison to private school tuition is an interesting slight-of-hand and is the real reason I picked up on this. He says something like "private schools tell you what it costs to educate your kid," which is true to a point. Private schools DO tell you the tuition. They do not tell you what it actually costs, though. That's a key point because he is complaining about how the Public schools left out information. He forgot to mention that the Private schools left out the same information.

I'm always amused by the claim that the local Catholic School is "so inexpensive." Yeah, because they don't own or maintain a building. The Diocese does, and the School rents it for a dollar a year. Likewise, many of the usual "costs" are off the budget. Of course, it always helps if you have nuns teaching - they are incredibly good but historically have been paid next to nothing. And, it this case, many are on the Diocese payroll. Presto, "lower cost per student."

Most private schools are 501c(3), non-profit organizations which means that people can donate to them and write it off their taxes. That's money that isn't charged to the parents. Private schools also don't have a capital bond. They have a capital fund drive instead. Nearly every building on a private school campus has someone's name on it - the name of the person who gave the money to build it.

(It's funny. Public schools name things after a late teacher or principal who made a huge impact on the school. Private schools name things after the person who donated money for it.)

The Alumni Director is an important and well-paid position because the alumni give big bucks. There is a Development Director whose sole job is begging for money. There are dozens of fund-raising situations every year at every school. Parents in another local academy are required to help in the fundraisers.

Then the bookkeepers rise up. In a private school, fees are the thing. The parents pay for all sorts of things. Books are obvious. But also, most field trips and activities are extra. Don't for get the lab fee and the materials fee and the art materials fees. If it costs the school, it gets passed on to the parents. I know. I ran a school for years.

That's the big difference between public and private and is always ignored when people tout the relatively low cost of private schools.

But then, who expects politics and money to be anything but contentious?

1 comment:

  1. let's not forget all of the work days parents do for private schools. Our daughter is in a private school with a pre-school and we have 3-4 work days every semester. There are fundraisers that we are "strongly" advised to participate in. And then the volunteering.

    So there are hidden costs on both sides.