May 04, 2004
How Much Does it Cost to Educate Texas Students?

With all the chatter about funding Texas public schools, I wanted to know at what level the government has set the cost of educating children. My rough calculations are below.

Generally speaking, the Texas Education Agency requires kids in Texas public schools to go to those schools for 180 days out of the year. It varies due to holidays and a few other things, but I'm using it as a benchmark for the moment. How the TEA arrived at this I'm not certain.

One estimate (PDF) I've read says the state spent an average of $6,503 per student, below the national average of $6,549. The recently released educational adequacy study estimates the "average minimum funding level per pupil of meeting state performance standards" is "between $6,172 and $6,271 (in 2004 dollars)."

Let's round the current figure to $6,500 per student, per academic year. With 180 days of instruction, that comes to roughly $36 per day, or $1083 per month. Note that this is for an "adequate" education, defined in the abovementioned study as:

  • 55% passing rate on the TAKS tests for grades 5-8 and 10.
  • A specific score on the SAT or ACT tests that an average percentage of graduates receive.
  • And an average percentage of students taking one advanced course.

In my opinion, that certainly counts as adequate. But I don't want my future children getting an education that's grudgingly labeled adequate. I want the best my money can buy and that is a wasted effort to pursue in public education.

Someone looking at the rudimentary calculations I did above may be shocked at the costs of educating their kids. I have two things to say to such shock.

First, only the economically ignorant are unaware of the immense benefits free markets create for a sector of the economy. What once cost the state (read: everyone) billions to do is now done by free individuals for far less and towards far greater output. Once you strip the inefficient apparatus of the state from education and allow schools to freely operate, costs will drop as they seek to attract customers and run a profit. I'm loath to predict anything since by it's nature such a system can't be exactly quantified.

Second, if that shock is so great, imagine how people who don't have kids in public schools feel when they hand over their a chunk of their wealth to the taxman to pay for the educations of others! The real costs of "free education" are disguised because they are spread among Texans. Those who object to paying for their own kids' education simply due to cost ought to consider what they advocate: everyone gets screwed by the government's education costs.

Objections that "everyone benefits from a good education" are made by either socialists or hypocrites. Everyone benefits from the information technology revolution, from inexpensive food, from effective indoor climate controls, etc...are we to socialize all industries that have positive externalities? Of course not. Education is too important to be socialized.

Posted by Drizzten at May 04, 2004 09:06 AM

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