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Posted at 7:12 PM ET, 02/10/2011

Not 'apples to apples' at D.C. schools

By Jack Koczela, Washington

It would have been illuminating if the chart that accompanied the article on the District's per-student funding disconnect had included the 2010-11 enrollment data for each school.

The four highest-funded schools on a per-student basis (i.e., the magnet institutions of Ellington, School Without Walls, Banneker and McKinley) educate their students for $19.2 million, an average of about $9,700 a student. The four lowest-funded schools (i.e., the neighborhood schools, Roosevelt, Ballou, Anacostia and Wilson) serve more than twice as many students as the magnet schools do, for a total of about $26.7 million, or an average of about $6,500 a student. I am curious to know what it is about the 4,123 students at the neighborhood schools that makes them worth only 67 percent of the value of each of the 1,986 magnet school students?

The principal of the School Without Walls had it right when he said that data from the Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators do not allow "apples to apples" comparisons, because indeed the data show that at some DCPS high schools, the city provides sugar-coated apple tarts, while other schools are left to pick through rotten ground apples. We simply have to find a way to more equitably carve up the proverbial apple pie.

First we have to close one, possibly two of the under-enrolled schools, saving administrative costs. Second, we have to curtail the roughly $5 million of “special subsidies” to the magnet schools. Third, we have to go back to the original model of the magnet schools and cut out their sports programs — by law any DCPS student can play sports at their neighborhood school, so the magnets need not fund the extra athletic programs. There are likely other redundancies that can and must be cut to help us navigate these troubled waters.

The writer is a board member of the Woodrow Wilson Management Corp., a nonprofit organization that helps manage facilities at Woodrow Wilson High School.

By Jack Koczela, Washington  | February 10, 2011; 7:12 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., D.C. politics, HotTopic, education, schools  
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Next: Lack of equity in funding for D.C. schools


Sorry, Jack, but your ratio comparisons are misleading. Education costs really do include those that are not spent at the school. None of us have a basis for believing that the overhead and indirect costs are unequally attributed, so we have to assume everyone gets and equal short. In summary, change your denominator to include TOTAL costs. The absolute differences remain the same. The ratios do not, coming closer to 1.
Close schools? Bravo for courage in wondering aloud how some of the formerly great DCPS high schools can be allowed to rattle around with enrollments around 600 each? It would be sad if the best reason is So the major sports teams are sufficient in number to constitute a league.
When is DCPS going to face up to the fact that it has handed its lunch over to growing public charters? There simply are not enough students continuing to DCPS high schools to warrant more than 4 comprehensives?

Posted by: incredulous | February 10, 2011 11:34 PM | Report abuse

Why all the political and emotional histrionics? Schools with smarter kids from two-parent families SHOULD get more resources than those with kids who were doomed by uneducated, unprepared single parents to lives of ignorance, low-achievement and poverty before they drew their first breaths.

Let's stop throwing good money after bad. Let's instead boost our investment in those kids who actually have a chance to compete in a 21st century global economy. The bright ones are our nation's only hope for the future; the dolts will merely be burdens, regardless of the resources we squander on them.

Posted by: NorplantNow | February 11, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse

NorplantNow's ideas sound like Brave New World.

Posted by: DOEJN | February 11, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

If only NorplantNow's parents had used condoms 100% of the time.

Posted by: Greent | February 11, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Dang NorplantNow...How sad. Has America really come to this..? I guess you're next recommendation will be to euthanize the poor, the disabled and the old because they are a drag on our ability to complete in the 21st century global economy. Just pray you never become one of them.

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | February 11, 2011 3:16 PM | Report abuse

How to Derail a Not-Liberal-Enough Discussion --

A Primer for Liberals (by an ex-(pseudo-?)liberal):

1. Lob a rhetorical hand-grenade by calling everybody who doesn't share your (allegedly) liberal views a "racist bigot" or worse.

2. If that fails, bait them with hyperbolic polemics and screeds.

3. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Above we have DOEJN, Greent, and PracticalIndependent launch classic attacks on a target based on a giddy game of political-slippery-slope free associations.

Note that none of the attackers offers any commentary about the letter or issues at hand.

Re magnets: For my money, I'm sick of officials dismantling and diluting magnet programs. They've made many of these programs virtually meaningless in Maryland by making the admissions standards to these programs too permissive. Look at me, I went to (Md.) public school G/T programs all during the eighties and nineties and, let's face it, I'm a pretty big dimwit.

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | February 11, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

In this particular case, Huxley said it better than me. :)

But I will give it a try:

1. I take issue with the whole premise of NorplantNow's point, as it so blatantly defies the Golden Rule, which is the basis of so many ethical codes. NorplantNow is saying it is justifiable to treat some people as dolts from the day they are born, because of the circumstances they were born into and not at all based on, as Martin Luther King would put it, "the content of their character."

2. What we don't invest in children will come back to haunt us in the form of crime.

Posted by: DOEJN | February 11, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Cumulatively speaking, the taxpayers of Montgomery County and Maryland invested heavily in me -- including expensive G/T and magnet/IB programs as well as public scholarship funds. Today I am a mentally ill suicidal wreck (bipolar disorder) trapped in a neverending nightmare of volatile rapid-cycling, unemployed since November.

In short, I have become a net drain on society in a big way. That is a pretty lousy return on investment (ROI), you've got to admit.

Separate the bad eggs from the good. Don't throw good money after bad. Chuck out the rotten eggs while you still have money in the bank. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.

Those mangled cliches sure work for me.

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | February 11, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

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