Fact Check: Washington School Finance

Posted on September 23, 2009



I read this today:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=18464

And was especially intrigued by the first bullet point: “Schools receive more than $10,000 per pupil per year, about one-third more than private schools spend per student.”

Having just completed my study of private school tax returns, this statement seemed a bit out of line and there was absolutely no support for it, not even in their main report: http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/Centers/education/policybrief/06_finne_schoolfunding.pdf

They do argue (but do not validate) in this report that the typical Washington private school spends about $6,000 per pupil.

So, I went back to my data set of private schools. Note that the main finding of my report was that private school spending varies widely and varies especially as a function of the affiliation of the schools. The lowest spending schools in my set of 1500 tax returns were those which are members of the major Christian Associations. My sample included 26 such schools in Washington state, which spent in 2007, on average about $6,656 per pupil. So, even the lowest spending group of private schools in Washington spend more than $6k per kid. The largest group filing their IRS 990 returns in Washington were private independent day schools. These schools spent, on average, $19,283 per kid per year.  Hey, that’s about twice what the posting said was the allocation for public schools. Sadly, only 2 catholic schools reported their IRS 990 in Washington, and those schools spent about $13k per kid per year, but are not necessarily representative of all Catholic schools in Washington.

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