As a point of comparison, the tuition for attending a Catholic high school in Philadelphia will be only $4,380 for the 2006-2007 school year. Not exactly a princely sum even if you include the inevitable subsidies the Archdiocese gives to their schools. And, I'm sure the hallways in the catholic schools don't reek of urine as they do in many of the public schools.
Let's see where the Philadelphia School System spends all this money (from School Matters for 2004-2005).
Total Expenditures were $12,761. This is the number I used; but, when most education commentators write about school expenses they use Operating Expenditures, which for the Philadelphia School System were $8,551. Using Operating Expenditures, instead of Total Expenditures, makes it appear that the cost of public education is cheaper than it really is; in Philadelphia School System's case it undervalues the cost to taxpayers by a third. Quite a neat trick.
Total Expenditures includes such thing as capital expenditures (buildings and equipment), interest payments, and payments to outside schools (usually for education special education students with real handicaps--as opposed to the phony school-caused "specific learning disabilities"). These are, of course, real expenses that need to be paid. If you don't believe me, try not paying your mortgage for a few months and see upset your bank becomes.
Next we have Instructional Expenditures at $4,779 which is only about 56% of Operating Expenses (37% of Total Expenditures). The rest of the Operating Expenses go to transporting and feeding the kids, utility expenses, and maintaining the bloated bureaucracy.
For every dollar out of the taxpayer's pocket, only 37 cents makes it to instruction.
This is fiscal mismanagement on a grand scale. You hear a lot about the military's $600 toilet seats from the press, not as much about the $13,000 educations in which less than a third of the students (who didn't drop out) actually learned. At least the toilet seat accomplished its intended function.