Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rising school costs squeezing rural tax payers

Reva resident Ralph Nicholson had a good letter in the Madison Eagle this week decrying the increasingly burdensome real estate tax. He warned tax payers that the school system was asking for more tax dollars again.
"Revenue is down in this county and yet it doesn't seem to matter to our school system. They now say a five percent rise is what they want. I can hardly believe that more than $18 million is not enough to run our school system, especially for an enrollment of 1,844 students.

However, the schools have expanded their pre-kindergarten programs that have kids in the program as young as 2 years old. Yes, that's correct, 2 years old by Dr. Tanners own admission."

Is there some room to cut costs here? If you do the math of what their proposed budgets wants, it's more than $10,000 per student."

That sounds outlandish and prompted a search on the internet to see just what is the average cost per public school student these days. The answer isn't a happy one. It turns out that Madison County schools are following the upswing in national trends.

WikiAnswers shows that the national average for a public school education is $9866 per year. In Fairfax County, the average cost per student in this school year (2007-08) is $13,407.

A March 14, 2007 working paper by Allan R. Odden and Michael E. Goetz of the University of Wisconsin, and Lawrence O. Picus, University of Southern California, came to the conclusion that "no state looks exactly like the national average." Of course, to get an average, some states are funding higher and some lower. The state of New York is about 40 percent higher than the national average and Utah is about 40 percent lower than the average.

Overall they say funding seems to be adequate across the country but it is the allocation of resources that makes the difference. They support the use of an evidence-based budget model, having consistent scientific evidence showing improved outcomes, in order for schools to become more efficient and improve student achievement.

Madison County Public School's 2008-2009 proposed budget can be found here.