Graph of the Day: Private School Day Tuition vs. Public School Expenditures (Boston Metro 2009)


I’ve written extensively in the past about private school tuition and expenditures.

Here is a link to a report on private school expenditures I produced in 2009. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/private-schooling-US

The graph below is actually stacked heavily in favor of showing that public schools have higher spending than private schools. Why? Because I am comparing private school tuition to public school total expenditures per pupil.

TUITION DOES NOT COVER TOTAL COSTS AND DOES NOT REPRESENT TOTAL SPENDING. The tuition figures included below include only DAY SCHOOL TUITION (or day component for boarding schools) which is only a share of current operating expenditures.

That out of the way, let’s take a look at the distribution of day tuition for the 57 private schools identified in 2009 by Boston Magazine as the “best” in the Boston Metro – broadly defining the Boston Metro (extending pretty far out). These schools collectively serve over 24,000 students. Let’s put their tuition into context by comparing it with the distribution of total per pupil expenditures as reported for public districts in the Boston Metro by the Massachusetts Department of Education.

Note that the vast majority of private independent schools had tuition in 2009 exceeding $30,000, yet few if any public districts spent anywhere near that much. A handful of Catholic private schools charged tuition under $10,000. Whereas the majority of public districts in the Boston metro spent closer to $10,000 than to $20,000.

The average pupil weighted total expenditure per pupil for public districts in the figure is$12,966 (with Boston as a stand out, but under $20k)

The average pupil weighted day tuition for private schools in the figure is $22,337 (but clearly bimodal)

Published by schoolfinance101

Bruce Baker is an Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. From 1997 to 2008 he was a professor at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. He is lead author with Preston Green (Penn State University) and Craig Richards (Teachers College, Columbia University) of Financing Education Systems, a graduate level textbook on school finance policy published by Merrill/Prentice-Hall. Professor Baker has written a multitude of peer reviewed research articles on state school finance policy, teacher labor markets, school leadership labor markets and higher education finance and policy. His recent work has focused on measuring cost variations associated with schooling contexts and student population characteristics, including ways to better design state school finance policies and local district allocation formulas (including Weighted Student Funding) for better meeting the needs of students. Baker, along with Preston Green of Penn State University are co-authors of the chapter on Conceptions of Equity in the recently released Handbook of Research Education Finance and Policy, and co-authors of the chapter on the Politics of Education Finance in the Handbook of Education Politics and Policy and co-authors of the chapter on School Finance in the Handbook of Education Policy of the American Educational Research Association. Professor Baker has also consulted for state legislatures, boards of education and other organizations on education policy and school finance issues and has testified in state school finance litigation in Kansas, Missouri and Arizona. He is a member of the Think Tank Review Panel, a group of academic researchers who conduct technical reviews of publicly released think tank reports on education policy issues.

2 thoughts on “Graph of the Day: Private School Day Tuition vs. Public School Expenditures (Boston Metro 2009)

  1. I thought the private school double hump would be a lot smoother given the number of institutions. I wonder if anything would come of looking at when the schools went into business? In Florida, there were a bunch of schools started when mandatory integration went into force.

    1. I would have expected more in the middle as well, as I’ve seen in other larger analyses. This is a very limited sample though, and Boston Magazine might have segmented their selections and excluded the middle if there was any. Southern states have a larger middle segment among private independent and other church independent schools, perhaps for the reason you mention- the demand for a separate set of white middle class schools.

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