Senate Finance Committee: $11,249 per public school student


With $11,000 you can buy this sapphire diamond engagement ring – or pay the South Carolina public schools to “educate” one child (of which only $4,800 will reach the classroom).

The Internet Pipes are packed full of high-drama coverage of the “devastating” effect that budget cuts will have on South Carolina public schools.

State Superintendent Jim Rex (D) has made many heavily-publicized claims about the inevitability of job losses and harm to classrooms if the state legislature does not come up with enough money.

Parents have been told in no uncertain terms: their children will suffer because of crippling cuts to public education.

Rex’s own lavish spending growth on personal consultants and expansion of his high-salaried full-time staff suggests that raising the public alarm is more of an organizational PR strategy than an earnest cry for help.

Now that the Finance Committee has reported on the draft budget (initially authored by the SC House), more light can be shed on the actual magnitude of K-12 Education cuts.

From the House Budget as reported by the Senate Finance Committee:

The base student cost for the current fiscal year for Part IA has been determined to be $2,034 and the base student cost for Part III has been determined to be $300 for a total base student cost of $2,334. In Fiscal Year 2009-10, the total pupil count is projected to be 691,816. The average per pupil funding is projected to be $4,160 state, $1,296 federal, and $5,792 local. This is an average total funding level of $11,249 excluding revenues of local bond issues.

For comparison, in 2008-09 the funding was $11,480 for each of the 690,363 public school students.

In other words, per-student allocations for public schools in 2009-10 will be just $231.00 lower than in 2008-09. That amounts to a paltry 2 percent! Hardly the crippling crisis that Rex and others have suggested. By comparison, state spending on the Department of Natural Resources has been cut from $22 million to $18.8 million (or 15 percent).

Even more surprising than the fact that public schools will spend over $11,000.00 per child this year, is that just pennies on the dollar will actually reach the teacher and student in the classroom.

A 2007 report by South Carolina’s Budget and Control Board sheds some light on just how public school districts have chosen to spend the money sent to them for “education.”

For every dollar spent per student:

43 cents goes to actual instruction,

31 cents to administration,

15 cents goes to Purchase of Land and Facility Construction,

10 cents goes to debt Service and Interest on Debt,

less than 1 cent goes to Health and Human Services,

less than 1 cent goes to recreation and culture,

and 1 cent goes to “All Other.”

Recent budget cuts have been a convenient excuse for Rex and his cadre of insiders to portray themselves as heroically fighting to educate children, despite being financially hamstrung by the state legislature. This discussion of money and rhetorical esteem of child has been exploited by education bureaucrats hoping to deflect inquiry into how they spend the money.

Rex wants to quibble about a tiny $200 per student cut, but still endorse the hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars, being forked out hand-over-fist to consultants and politically connected testing contractors.

The issue is not whether the education establishment has been provided with enough tax dollars to do their job, it is the overwhelming lack of accountability and common sense in how the bureaucracy spends the massive amounts of public money that have been entrusted to them.

Despite the total lack of credibility in spending-and more importantly education- Jim Rex still fights tooth and nail to keep parents from getting any of their own money back as a small tax credit, because it would take money from schools in “desperate” need.


4 responses to “Senate Finance Committee: $11,249 per public school student

  1. Thank you for putting this in perspective. No one in public policy seems to think $11,000 is a lot until you put it in real-world terms everyone can understand. Let’s buy expensive jewelry for every kid in South Carolina’s public schools!

    The opposition to the school choice bill is, of course, more obfuscation of the issue by those who seek to maintain their (poorly performing) monopoly on children and power. This article is a laser beam cutting through that fog.

  2. I find the figures to be a little misleading. I don’t find it honest to say that pennies on the dollar will reach the classroom when the largest portion of the money spent is on actual instruction. But land and construction costs are direct costs as well. One must pay for the actual classroom. And the money spent on debt – well, that is not an extravagance.

    But regardless of the amount, “school choice” is basically asking other people to pay for your kids education outside of the public system. We have choice now – if you are willing to pay for it.

    What I don’t understand is that the same people that are saying that universal health care, for example, is socialistic are asking for school choice. Any time the government pays for anything, the net result is an increase in taxes and an increase in government. I am not in favor of either…. Read More

    And that’s a high price for a sapphire and diamond ring!

  3. How would giving a $2,400 tax credit to parents, who by sending their child to a private schools, save the state $11,000 in spending liabilities, constitute a cost to the government?!

  4. Public schools already fund private schools. Magnet schools only accept applicants based on GPA, positive discipline records, teacher recommendation, audition and interview processes. Magnet schools are private schools funded by public money. Open enrollment to all children is non-existent. I pray to god for my god given right to decide how and where I educate my children. The war on choice should read the report published by the ACLU called “The Education to Prison Pipeline: Criminalizing our youth in the Classroom.” The mental health of our youth is caused by the excessive use of zero tolerance policies enforced by education and police officers disguised as resource officers. To remove the police and deal with children like human beings through mediation and counseling would be a novelty. “Child abuse is a grown-up problem.” the only difference between education and the Department of Juvenile Justice is the wired court yards. Public education is no longer child friendly and it scares the he– out of me.

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