The public schools in Washington, D.C. continue to set a record for per pupil costs in the nation. The District has long been the most expensive system in the country and reportedly spends roughly $30,000 per student in a system that continues to produce appalling results in national studies. The latest such study is by the respected National Center for Education Statistics which has found that in 2013 83 percent of the eighth graders in these schools were not “proficient” in reading and 81 percent were not “proficient” in math.
The only improvement is marginal at best. The percentage of students who performed at or above the NAEP Basic level was 57 percent in 2013. This percentage was greater than that in 2011 (51 percent) and in 1998 (44 percent). However, this is an extremely low level of performance and 43 percent are below even that level.
What is equally distressing is that this study went with virtually no mention in Washington. Indeed, the Washington Post gave more attention to the discarding of trash bins than this most recent educational data.
D.C. eighth graders scored an average of 248 out of 500 in reading. Mississippi finished next to last with an average of 253.
DC spends more than twice as other large cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Dallas, though figures vary between studies and reports. The figure is derived from dividing total expenditures in Table 1 by enrollment in Table 15 of the Census Bureau statistics. The Census Bureau’s Table 11 puts the per capital costs for elementary schools at over $27,000 up to 2010. (note that this is a different calculation than Table 8 on per capita spending levels).
New York spends $5,353 less per student.
By the way, of that money, only $10,584 per pupil is spent on “instruction” and $1,613 on “instructional staff.”
Whatever the cost, the D.C. schools continue to fail and thousands of students are facing a dim future without basic skills to succeed. Many will be left to a cycle poverty where they lack the necessary skills to succeed in a new and more demanding job market. It is a chilling statistic that is measured in real terms in the lives of thousands of students.
These statistics are truly frightening. D.C. has a long reputation for wasteful and poorly managed systems. This low level of performance is even more striking when it is between two of the most successful school systems in the country: Montgomery (MD) and Fairfax Counties (VA). Clearly D.C. deals with a large number of impoverished students, but that does not explain this continuing failure of this system at such a high cost. Other cities have such impoverished areas and do far better with far less. The city seems to be continuing to discard thousands of students with the same level of care as its recent trash bin scandal. Yet, there remains no serious backlash against the city’s elected officials or demands for a fundamental change in the school system after decades of such poor performance.