The public schools in Washington, D.C., spent $29,349 per pupil in the 2010-2011 school year, according to the latest data from National Center for Education Statistics, but in 2013 fully 83 percent of the eighth graders in these schools were not “proficient” in reading and 81 percent were not “proficient” in math.
These are the government schools in our nation’s capital city – where for decades politicians of both parties have obstreperously pushed for more federal involvement in education and more federal spending on education.
Government has manifestly failed the families who must send their children to these schools, and the children who must attend them.
Under the auspices of the National Center for Education Statistics, the federal government periodically tests elementary and high school students in various subjects, including reading and math. These National Assessment of Educational Progress tests are scored on a scale of 500, and student achievement levels are rated as “basic,” “proficient” and “advanced.”
In 2013, students nationwide took NAEP reading and math tests. When the NCES listed the scores of public-school eighth graders in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, D.C. came in last in both subjects.
D.C. eighth graders scored an average of 248 out of 500 in reading, and Mississippi finished next to last with an average of 253.
Only 17 percent of D.C. 8th graders rated “proficient” or better in reading. In Mississippi, it was 20 percent.
In math, D.C. public-school eighth graders scored an average of 265 out of 500, and only 19 percent were rated “proficient” or better. Alabama placed next to last with an average math score of 269, with 20 percent rated “proficient” or better.
Some might argue it is unfair to compare, Washington, D.C., a single city, with an entire state. However, D.C. also does not compete well against other big cities.
The Department of Education’s Trial Urban District Assessments program compares the test results in 21 large-city school districts, including Washington, D.C.
In these assessments, the scores of students from charter schools were removed and the average reading score for D.C. public school eighth-graders dropped to 245. That was below the national large-city average of 258, and tied D.C. with Fresno for seventeenth place among the 21 big cities in the TUDA.
In math, minus the charter school students, D.C. public-school eighth graders earned an average score of 260. That was below the national large-city average of 276, and put D.C. in a tie for sixteenth place, this time with Fresno and Baltimore.
The NCES database indicates that in the 2010-2011 school year, Washington, D.C. public schools spent a total of $29,349 per pupil, ranking No. 1 in spending per pupil among the 21 large cities in the TUDA.
New York City Public Schools ranked second among these large cities, spending $23,996 per pupil. That was $5,353 – or about 18 percent – less than the $29,349 the D.C. public schools spent.
Table 236.75 from the NCES’s Digest of Education Statistics compares per pupil spending among the states and the District of Columbia. It indicates that D.C. spent a little bit less per pupil – $28,403 – who enrolled in the fall in 2010-2011 school year. But that still ranks D.C. as No. 1, out-spending all the states.
How did the D.C. public schools spend $28,403 per student?
Among other things, they spent $10,584 per pupil on “instruction,” which “encompasses all activities dealing directly with the interaction between teachers and students.”
Then they spent $5,487 on “capital outlays,” which includes “the acquisition of land and buildings; building construction, remodeling,” etc.
Then they spent $2,321 on “operation and maintenance,” which includes “salary, benefits, supplies, and contractual fees for supervision of operations and maintenance,” etc.
Then they spent $2,124 on “interest on school debt.”
Then they spent $1,613 on “instructional staff,” $1,546 on “school administration,” $1,404 on “student transportation,” $1,208 on “student support,” $866 on “general administration,” $761 on “food services,” $450 on “other support services.”
Congress ought to give every family in Washington, D.C., a choice of whether or not they want a government school to spend this money on behalf of their children. The D.C. public school system should be required to provide every family in the district with school-age children with a voucher for each child that is worth every penny the district now spends per pupil in its public schools. Families should be able to use that voucher at any school they want, anywhere they want.