Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Education And Value For Money

Last week, Rich of Shots Across The Bow had an excellent post on the costs of education. He pointed out that the United States spends the most of the top twenty-five industrial nations on Earth, per capita, but only produces middling results. There were a couple of links in the story, to data and more analysis, that are worth following.

So why do we have such a crappy education for our dollars? Lots of reasons; enough so that most everyone can dodge responsibility. That's not really the point of this post. I went out and looked up the cost of education at various private schools in the Memphis and Shelby County area. The results were eye-opening.

The US spends, on average, $10,240 per pupil. The average of the top twenty-five industrial nations was $6,361. I checked around and found the following prices from local, private schools:

I should note, too, that I tried some Jewish schools in the area, but none listed tuition on their websites. That list is by no means exhaustive. But what it does show is that, for what we spend on public education, you can buy a pretty good private education with quite a lot of money left over in most cases. You can almost buy a nice liberal arts university education!

Yeah, to some extent we're comparing apples and oranges here. But look at it this way: Economically speaking, the public school system enjoys vast economies of scale. They have centralised and standardised a lot of what they can, which ought to translate into reductions in per-student cost. They can afford, with their pool of public monies, to do a lot of things smaller schools only dream of.

So we have, once again, another argument for tearing apart the present system to see where the problems are inside, analysing them and devising solutions, and then restructuring the new system to meet those needs. Will it happen? Of course not! Too many vested interests with territory to protect, too many parents who aren't that concerned, too many folks who look at the enormity of what's wrong and quail at the thought of tackling it.

If you'd like to do some of your own investigating, try the Memphis Association of Independent Schools website.

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