America Goes to School: Law, Reform, and Crisis in Public Education

By Robert M. Hardaway | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
Public and Private Education

It has already been documented that private schools in the United States spend far less per student than the public schools. For example, it will be recalled that in Kansas City, private schools spent an average of $2,000 per student compared to $5,900 per student in the public schools. 1 Parochial schools spend far less than both public schools and other private schools. 2

And yet hundreds of thousands of parents in the United States choose to pay for private school tuition out of their own pockets rather than send their children to public schools that spend far more per student educating their children. Why would so many parents spend so much extra money for the privilege of having less spent on their children's education?

When this question is asked of members of the educational establishment, the response is usually defensive and often fierce. Many simply reject the premise of the question and dispute the data on cost comparisons by rather calling it "inconclusive," 3 or claiming that the apparent disparities are due to "massive gaps in accounting in private school data." 4

In responding to such claims, a 1993 study published by Harvard University Press reexamined the data and did find substantial gaps in the cost accounting--but in the calculation of public school costs, not private school costs. For example, it found that calculations of public school expenditures did not include expenditures on over 20 categories of costs, including pensions, interest, administrative costs, and training programs. 5

Others members of the educational establishment freely concede the substantial disparities in spending between public and private schools, but nevertheless insist that me question is unfair. Private schools don't have to educate as many . . . disabled, bilingual, illegal aliens, and disadvantaged students as public schools, they argue, and public schools have more discipline problems. Only rarely are they willing to concede that private schools are more efficient, or provide a better education with far less money and fewer resources. To make any

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