An Easy Way to Calculate the Rising Cost of Schooling



By 08/24/2011

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In a recent blog post, I lamented the fact that school districts, including my home school district of Wellesley Massachusetts  are not telling people how much they are charging the taxpayer for each and every student in their schools.  If they wanted easy access to the information, they need to go to education.com.

My post fetched a response from a dedicated group of young people raising money to give children in Uganda a chance to go to school.  Apart from the worthy cause, they tell you a good deal about the rising cost of education.

Go to calculateit.org.

They ask you to state the year of your birth, the state in which you went to school, and whether you went to public or private school, then they will tell you how much it cost to provide you with an education in grades 1 through 7.

I found out that the government spent less than $13,000 on me, but nearly $60,000 on my son, and will certainly be spending well over $100,000 on my grandson when he begins school.

The site does not get down to the school district level, as education.com does, but it is a fun exercise anyhow.

While I am on the topic, let me reply to  Anne Clark, a reader of my original blog post, who complains that I did not do my homework before writing that post.  She asserts that the information on the cost and performance of the Wellesley middle school is readily available on a Massachusetts website.  All one has to do is google “Massachusetts MCAS.”  I tried that and found that I had to do a great deal of navigation to get the information she reports.

Even if the data is there, why should any parent have to know that the way to get expenditure and performance data on the Wellesley public schools is to google Massachusetts MCAS? And then navigate through a complex website to find a category called budget and then divide by enrollment to get per pupil expenditure?  All of that is possible, but it is hardly user-friendly.

What’s more, if Clark is correct, that website is handing out erroneous information.  She says Wellesley per pupil expenditures are about $12,000 when in fact the true cost is over $15,000. So says education.com, which gets its data from the U. S. Department of Education, a stickler for accuracy in these kinds of things.

(By the way, in my hunt for the missing information, I went to the official website of the Wellesley Public Schools, not its middle school website, as Clark alleges.)

Bottom line:  Information on the cost and performance of the Wellesley Public Schools may be available somewhere else in the vast reaches of the internet, but to quickly access accurate information you have to go to education.com

-Paul E. Peterson




Comment on this article
  • Jim says:

    I encourage all parents to go their local district’s website and find the most recent available budget. (It can be hard to locate, and it may not be for the most recent fiscal year. Alas, if public school officials had to meet the same disclosure requirements of publicly held corporations, most of them would be in jail…) If you look at total expenditures divided by total enrollment, one often sees a figure that is quite different — and usually higher — than what your administrators often claim as their funding. Administrators may complain about deficiencies in local funding or state programs, but there are many “pots” of funding, and it is only when you add them all up and look at total expenditures, that you begin to see the complete picture. Now granted, many funding streams (e.g. Special Ed, Title I, English Language Learner funds) are not discretionary; they are dedicated for specific groups of students. But the totals will still surprise many people. One thing they may discover is that the inner city schools in their area, which are often referred to as “under-funded”, may be spending surprisingly large amounts on a per-pupil basis.

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