March 3, 2009

Arne Learned How to Exaggerate

Super-blogger Russo points us to an interview with our new Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, in which he makes the following claim:

And the Chicago public schools are desperately underfunded by the state.

This is misleading statement. The source of the funding is largely irrelevant (I understand that many states and the Feds often attach certain strings to funding that can be unproductive). What is important is the Chicago School District's actual funding.

How much do you think a chronically underfunded school district has to spend? Five? Six thousand dollars per pupil?

According to the district's own budget reporting the number is closer to "$10,555 operating expenditure per pupil."

And even that is a gross understatement.

The Chicago School District spends more than that. The $10,555 per pupil figure is for operating expenses (Operation Expenses Budget: $ 4.648 Billion ) . (It also seems to include about 31,759 extra students over the officially reported 408,601 student who attend schools in the district)

The total expenditures for Fiscal Year 2008 (full budget, p. 11: pdf) were actually $ 5.786 Billion. That means that the Chicago School District spent between $13,140 and $14,161 per pupil. (Depending on whether you count the 31,759 mystery students )
That's a lot of chicken now matter how you slice it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I’m very happy you posted on school funding issue here in Illinois and Chicago Public School District 299 (CPS-299) in particular because our local “news” outlets, Chicago Tribune, and local TV stations provide a great deal of cover for CPS. You have to go to the Illinois State Board of Education site and dig out the funding numbers yourself because the afore mentioned media don’t or won’t do it.

Last fall local activists were up in the air about funding equity, i.e., CPS-299 was under funded relative other schools in the state. The hard truth is that statewide funding for operating expenses is on the order of $9,900 per student. The activists are quick to point to one of the outlier districts, as far as funding goes, New Trier, which spends about $17,000 per student. What they fail acknowledge is that 96% of that money comes from residents of the district. A quick glance at page 100 of the budget document that was linked in your post will tell you that Chicago residents are responsible for only 44.5% while the rest of us in the state and the rest of the country pony up the other 37.6% and 17.9% respectively. Northwest Suburban school districts in Cook County, some of the largest in the state, are 85-90% self funded. Clearly, there’s a good deal of redistribution of resources from wealthier districts to CPS that is never reported.

That academic achievement, graduation rates, and other measures of performance in CPS-299 are a disaster is not in question but blaming it on under funding, demonstrably false, is equally disastrous because it ignores and attempts to cover up the real problems in the district. However, that’s a subject for another day.

Joe Heater
Suburban Chicago Resident