Another $75 million state budget shortfall?

If just 1-in-10 parents pull their kids out of private schools to save their family money it will cost the public schools  in South Carolina $75 million.

Families in South Carolina are tightening their budgets.

They are looking closely at their monthly spending, trying to find places to cut back.

Some parents with children in private schools are thinking seriously about pulling their kids out -even just for a year or two- and having them attend public schools.

While the average private school tuition is just $6,600.00 per student (or half of per-student spending at public schools) this can make a big impact in a family’s budget.

But the real fiscal impact of K-12 education transfers will be felt by the public schools -and the taxpayers who fund them.

This year over 66,000 students are attending private schools in South Carolina.

If a mere 1-in-10 private school parents decided to enroll their children in a local public school that would require $75,768,000.00 in new public school spending. This cost is based on the $11,480 per student allocation listed in the Legislature’s 2008-09 budget.

But it gets worse.

The legislature’s $11,480 per child estimates are based on a messy combination of local, state and federal revenue streams. It works out to $5,516 local, $4,867 state and $1,097 federal per child.

The problem is that all the federal money ($1,097 per child) and half of the state money ($2,384) is allocated to the local school districts through programatic grants and categorical funding. Since money is not tied to the child, the addition of new students to a classroom doesn’t correspond to any additional funding from these sources.

Likewise, the local money, averaging $5,516, is a function of local taxpaying ability, determined by the total assessed value of taxable property in the district.

In other words, the chaotic and ineffective manner in which schools are funded would result in less money per child if attendance increases due to private school transfers.

In all, upwards of $8,900.00 of the per-student public school spending in 2008-09 is allocated to schools and districts programatically, which means the in-coming private school transfers would bring a corresponding $2,500 per student in new funding, despite their $11,4800 “cost” to the districts.

And this is still not the whole story.

The $11,480 figure does not include local bond revenues and other money for capital spending. An influx of 6,000 plus students would require a significant expansion classroom capacity, with a further cost of millions of dollars to state and local taxpayers.

For years parents and community leaders have been arguing for school choice based on their concerns about social justice for low-income families and educational effectiveness. Now, with tightening public and private budgets, some once skeptical lawmakers are looking to school choice as a way to ensure that public schools don’t see a big loss in per-student funding as the economy worsens.

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4 responses to “Another $75 million state budget shortfall?

  1. In 33+years in this profession in two states, I’ve seen this phenomenon several times. The thing that also happens quite frequently is that parents whose children come from private schools also often find that public schools do a very good job and have a lot to offer for their kids and they end up staying. While I’m relatively new to South Carolina, I believe we’ll see a similar trend during this economic downturn.

  2. Frank, it really depends on the school district. I would NEVER send my son to a school here in Lee County…NEVER! I do not care if I have to collect cans for the tuition for TSA…I do not think this will be a trend in most parts of the state where the school systems are functioning at a below par grade.

  3. Public schools may do a good job in the minds of career public education people, but we must remember that, along with the traditional subjects learned in public schools, the children are also taught about sex in ways many Christian parents wouldn’t approve. They’re also taught the religion of Darwinism because there is no room in public schools for Creationism by a supreme being. In many cases, a child can have his Christian faith ridiculed.
    Private schools can do a superior job for less money and the instructors do not belittle Christianity. Have you ever noticed that no religion is under attack in public schools except Christianity?
    Our legislature would do well to approve the money going with the child rather than to school districts where only public schools are funded.
    Even worse, there are teachers who

  4. How much of SC education dollars are paid to Law firms each year?

    Could this amount be reduced?

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