Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Paying for Education (By County)


David Goldstein is a writer (sometimes a funny writer) who has a local liberal blog, Horsesass, plus he writes for The Stranger Slog. He is fond of stats and charts.

He put out an interesting thread about funding for schools by county. The charts shows that "red" counties get more money than "blue" counties Meaning, they get to vote conservatively (tending to not vote for school levies and bonds) but they still receive dollars for education that the rest of the more populated counties raise. It's fairly eye-opening.

Keep in mind what he says about the chart:

And this represents Basic Education only... no special education or bilingual programs to skew the numbers. In general and on average, it just simply costs the state more to educate children in red counties than it does in the bluer parts of the state. Why? Well, a quick glance at the OSPI data reveals the gross inefficiency of sustaining the many tiny school districts that dot Washington's rural landscape. When you combine all sources of funding—state, federal and local—it cost $46,202 per student in 2008-2009 to educate the nine children enrolled in Adams County's Benge School District, compared to only $11,839 per student in our state's largest district, Seattle.

He also points out (and I agree):


Now, I'm not posting this data to make an argument for school district consolidation (though when it comes to some small and mid-sized districts, I'm guessing there's a helluva strong argument to make). And I'm certainly not making either a moral or policy argument against our state's wealthier households shouldering a disproportionate share of the cost of providing state services. Furthermore, I value what rural Washingtonians produce, and truly want them to be able to sustain their communities and educate their children, while maintaining a comfortable standard of living.

But the fact is, many of these communities and the basic government services they require are simply not sustainable without substantive state and federal subsidies... subsidies that we cannot continue to maintain at adequate levels without support from our rural neighbors to raise the taxes necessary to pay for them.

7 comments:

Kathy said...

Nice chart. Thanks for sharing.

Seattle gets $0.36 cents on every tax dollar paid.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I think the same argument can be made on the Federal level in regards to red/blue states. Oh the irony!

zb said...

"subsidies that we cannot continue to maintain at adequate levels without support from our rural neighbors to raise the taxes necessary to pay for them."

I think this is the key relevant point. Many (relatively) affluent Seattlites are willing to provide the subsidies to educate children in rural Washington. They're willing to have their taxes be high enough to pay for that subsidy. But, that willingness breaks down if it means at the expense of not having acceptable (and even excellent) public schools for their own children.

I don't want it to be a game where adults play chicken over the fate of the children. But if it turns out that way, I'll vote to support education of children in Seattle over other priorities, including the equally deserving children in rural Washington.

Anonymous said...

Special education is part of "basic education" by all definitions. That is, students with disabilities are supposed to receive "basic education" funding and are also considered general education students. Did they consider any of the funding to special education students when making these claims? Why is disability, which is at fact of life for everyone, considered "skewing the data"? All districts contain students with disabilities. I'm sure if you looked at the special education funding you might find something similar. In point of fact, when Goldstein says students in King County receive $11,839 / student... he most assuredly is counting in the special education monies sent to the district on behalf of disabled students.

SPED parent

zb said...

"Why is disability, which is at fact of life for everyone, considered "skewing the data"?"

My guess would be largely because the incidence of high-expense disabilities could be very unequally represented, especially in a very small school district. There might be a rural district that's paying 100K/student including special education funds because their funding a small number of children who have expensive needs within their already small population.

I don't think Goldstein meant to exclude special needs funding from basic education, merely to account for statistical aberrations of big but rare costs.

Anonymous said...

That still doesn't make any sense. It's the same difference as the Adam's Count spending of $46,000 per student. That too is is a statistical anomoly. Why? They probably still funded some basic thing that couldn't be spread out over an entire district.... exactly like any other high cost, exactly like a high cost student with a disability. How many such $100,000 students are there? Less than a handful. Furthermore, it is pretty obvious that funding for special education indeed was part of the mix given the King County expenses report. It limits the credibility of the study when you selectively decide what is and what is not basic education, and then you fail to disclose exactly what you mean. Students with disabilities account for 13% of the state.

SPED parent

wsnorth said...

Let's stop being so "nice" and "politically correct" and stand up for our children here in King County!

I've never thought taxes here were too high and haven't minded paying "my share", but I'm getting tired of all the rural freeloaders posing as rugged freeloaders.