Monday, September 13, 2010

P. J. O'Rourke calls for the end of public schools

About public schools P. J. O'Rourke says we should End Them, Don't Mend Them.

He writes a bit about how the cost of public schools is even worse than we normally hear:

In March the Cato Institute issued a report on the cost of public schools. Policy analyst Adam Schaeffer made a detailed examination of the budgets of 18 school districts in the five largest U.S. metro areas and the District of Columbia. He found that school districts were understating their per-pupil spending by between 23 and 90 percent. The school districts cried poor by excluding various categories of spending from their budgets—debt service, employee benefits, transportation costs, capital costs, and, presumably, those cans of aerosol spray used to give all public schools that special public school smell.
Schaeffer calculated that Los Angeles, which claims $19,000 per-pupil spending, actually spends $25,000. The New York metropolitan area admits to a per-pupil average of $18,700, but the true cost is about $26,900. The District of Columbia’s per-pupil outlay is claimed to be $17,542. The real number is an astonishing $28,170—155 percent more than the average tuition at the famously pricey private academies of the capital region.
School districts also cheat by simple slowness in publishing their budgets. The $11,749 is from 2007, the most recent figure available. It’s certainly grown. The Digest of Educational Statistics (read by Monday, there will be a quiz) says inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending increased by 49 percent from 1984 to 2004 and by more than 100 percent from 1970 to 2005.


He covers several more problems with public schools and ends with a call to shut down public schools.

I would be surprised if it ever happens, but he does make several good points about the huge problems with our government run schools.

(Hat tip: Newmark's Door)


S said...

Oh, what I could do with $28,000 per student... Makes you think.

Anonymous said...

Some of the schools have just gotten too big and student count day has become a contest with i-pod raffles to get kids to school where I live.

If the school spent the money wisely all the students would leave with a great education.

I am believe every child deserves a great education - and have even just started a small shop that small schools can use to start and promote their sports, events, etc.
check it out at

Sebastian said...

It's hard to compare the cost of a public school with a homeschool. I don't count a portion of our mortgage, utilities or landscaping efforts toward out school cost.
Nor do I tend to add in the cost of the income in the career I gave up to become a mother and eventual homeschooler.
But even if you compare public schools to private schools (as in the DC example) you can't help but wonder at where the money goes.

Special education requirements take up a lot of the money, especially when you consider that you may have to pay for a teacher, teacher's aide and then a special ed teacher to cover an entire classroom. Then there is the cost of dealing with various kids who don't have an interest in being their, cause discipline problems and detract from other students' learning.
Myron Liebermann suggested that school reform should include dumping both compulsory education and the minimum wage. said...

What about the public schools that are working? Schools are as strong as the community around them.

Believe me I work as a security officer at a public school in an urban area. I would not send my kids there. However 30 miles south where I live our schools are top 5%in the state of Kansas. In fact in my county our schools are really good.

Robert M. Lindsey said...

Love P. J. O'Rourke

Henry Cate said...

S - yeah, $28,000 per student, each year, is a lot of money. I'm sure most of us could use a fraction of that and produce better results.

Sebastian - I do think comparing the cost of public school and homeschool is like comparing apples and oranges. There are a lot of differences.
I think a big part of the cost of government schools are fundamentally rooted in how we view public schools. Over the last couple decades we asked public schools to solve all of society's problems. It used to be that we only expected schools teach teach children how to read, write, master math and so on. Special education is part of the new responsibilities government schools have.

justyns25 - I agree there are good schools. But where I live the good schools only seem to be good as the result of huge involvement by the parents. For me one of the problems is after paying out high taxes to fund these government schools, parents shouldn't also have to spend hours each week, after paying so much in the way of taxes. Normally in economics a high price comes with better services.

Robert - Yeah, I think he is right, our country would be better off if we could get the government out of public education. I'd be overjoyed if we just got the Federal government out of education, and had true vouchers.