For what it is worth, I like to use "per classroom" as well as "per pupil" numbers. In California this year, the state budget allocates about $10K per K-12 student. I find that telling people that this means that we are spending a quarter of a million dollars per classroom (assuming 25 kids per classroom, which seems about right) has more effect than $10K per student.Bear in mind that the Philly school system has about 30% more funds available to it than what's available in California.
I think this is because one classroom pretty much equals one teacher and so we get $250,000 per teacher, but everyone "knows" that teachers are underpaid. Well they aren't underpaid at $250,000 per year. The average California teacher gets about $55K/year in salary. Add in some generous benefits and it still looks like $250,000 per out to be enough to pay for a quality education.
Per-student numbers don't easily allow this sort of "obvious" conclusion.
But it gets better. California State rep, Tom McClintock, penned an op-ed last year illustrating just how far this kind of money goes. He lopped $3000 per student right off the top to bribe the educrats to stay away from the the schools an education altogether. That left him with about $7,000 per student to spend in the classroom:
To illustrate how we might scrape by at this subsistence level, let's use a hypothetical school of 180 students with only $1.2 million to get through the year. We have all seen the pictures of filthy bathrooms, leaky roofs, peeling paint and crumbling plaster to which our children have been condemned. I propose that we rescue them from this squalor by leasing out luxury commercial office space. Our school will need 4,800 square feet for five classrooms (the sixth class is gym). At $33 per foot, an annual lease will cost $158,400.
This will provide executive washrooms, around-the-clock janitorial service, wall-to-wall carpeting, utilities and music in the elevators. We'll also need new desks to preserve the professional ambiance.
Next, we'll need to hire five teachers, but not just any teachers. I propose hiring only associate professors from the California State University at their level of pay. Since university professors generally assign more reading, we'll need 12 of the latest edition, hardcover books for each student at an average $75 per book, plus an extra $5 to have the student's name engraved in gold leaf on the cover.
Since our conventional gym classes haven't stemmed the childhood obesity epidemic, I propose replacing them with an annual membership at a private health club for $39.95 per month. Finally, we'll hire an $80,000 administrator with a $40,000 secretary because, well, I don't know exactly why, but we always have.
Our bare-bones budget comes to this:
5 classrooms -- $158,400
150 desks @ $130 -- $19,500
180 annual health club memberships @ $480 -- $86,400
2,160 textbooks @ $80 -- $172,800
5 CSU associate professors @ $67,093 -- $335,465
1 administrator -- $80,000
1 secretary -- $40,000
24 percent faculty and staff benefits -- $109,312
Offices, expenses and insurance -- $30,000
TOTAL -- $1,031,877
The school I have just described is the school we're paying for. Maybe it's time to ask why it's not the school we're getting.
It simply boggles the mind how much more efficiently private industry is able to provide basic services and how inefficiently the public sector operates.
Using McClintock's assumptions, we'd have about $10,000 per student to spend for each student in Philadelphia, almost 50% more than in California. With this extra money, we could hire a private trainer for the gym class, hire a car service to chauffeur the kids to and from school, and purchase a few of those fancy smartboards and laptops for each kid.
Did I miss anything?