I posted awhile back about TABOR, the spending limitation that may be on the ballot in several states this year. When this idea was floated earlier in Pennsylvania, the state's budget office estimated that if TABOR had passed in 2002, that by 2005-06 the state budget would be 9 percent lower. To get some perspective on this, the school district of Philadelphia was budgeted in 2005-06 to receive $1.139 billion in state aid. A 9 percent reduction is a loss of $104 million.There they go again, those fat cat bureaucrats cutting school budgets again. It's a crying shame.
But on my way to the tissue box, I realized that although AFTie Ed was claiming to give me "some perspective" on the 9% reduction in state aid that the Philly School District might have to endure under TABOR-like spending limitations, I still didn't understand what was going on behind all those big meaningless numbers.
As Homer Simpson once said, "I like my beer cold, my TV loud, and my homosexuals FLAMING!" And I like my school spending numbers on a per pupil basis; otherwise they don't make sense and you can't gain any sense of perspective.
A 9% reduction in state aid represents a 5.35% cut in total budget. According to Schoolmatters, the Philly School District spend a whopping $12,761 per student back in 2004. A 5.35% cut would have brought them down to $12,078. That year, the average school in PA, spent only $11,294 per student. So even with the cuts, the Philly school district would have been $784 above the average.
Of course, those figures come from 2004 and need to be inflated to 2006 levels. Let's be conservative and say a few percent each year and quick as a wink we're back to about $13,000 per pupil.
No matter how you cut it, even with the potential reduction, there's no getting around the fact that the Philly school district's spends an awful lot of money educating -- or more accurately failing to educate, its students. This isn't Dickens, guv'nor.
So when AFTie Ed says:
And it's important to remember that in each additional year there would likely to be more tough decisions as a result of this initiative.I'm thinking you only get to $13k per student by failing to have made a lot of tough decisions over the course of many years. There's plenty of fat that could be cut before we get remotely close to "tough."
I wish I had a picture of the palatial building in which the school district administration meets to show you the kind of extravagant waste that exemplifies the Philly school district and which is choking Aftie Ed up just contemplating the potential of cutting.
But, that's why I like per pupil spending so much. Anyone reading the per student figures immediately understands the magnitude of the numbers. In this case you see that not only is the Philly school district spending higher than average even with the cuts, but the raw amount of spending, $13k per student, is high by any reasonable standard. It also makes statements like this:
When people think about spending limits, there is an assumption that belt tightening can happen without consequences. It isn't so.come off a tad bit melodramatic, bordering on silly. And, that is the advantage of gaining the proper perspective. And, no doubt why AFTie Ed didn't tell you the per pupil figures up front.