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Paying more for less

Paying more for less

Mitch Coffman
July 2, 2011

In the 2008 - 2009 school year, the Boise School District spent $9638 per student. During that same time, Boise’s private Bishop Kelly High School lists its current yearly cost per pupil as $8390. In return for per-pupil spending 15% higher than Bishop Kelly’s cost, taxpayers are getting lower SAT and ACT scores from Boise's public high schools and all of the public high schools' student-to-teacher ratios are higher than Bishop Kelly’s.

See the test scores along with student-to-teacher ratios here: http://www.box.net/shared/418xrgalumi26mosp9lx.
I created the chart using the profile available at each school's website and included the student-to-teacher ratios lest anyone think it is the decisive factor for educational effectiveness. As a Borah Lion I noted with chagrin my alma mater has the lowest student-to-teacher ratio of the public high schools - along with most of the lowest test scores.

Let the blame shifting begin as critics say it isn’t fair to compare Boise School District’s must-take-all-comers student population to the selected population of Bishop Kelly. It’s possible for that to be true, but only if the cohort taking the SAT and the ACT in the public high schools differs greatly from the one taking the same exams at Bishop Kelly. The tests are meant for the college-bound. If we can assume both Bishop Kelly and Boise School District students who take the SAT and ACT are academically successful students who plan to go to college, we have more proof that school spending has nothing to do with school outcomes. At least when it comes to these important tests, the Boise School District isn’t doing what Bishop Kelly does for less.

If it was serious about scores the Boise School District could spend the money it already has on one-to-one exam tutoring. A cursory Google search reveals Boise-area SAT tutors available for between $25 - $125 an hour. The extra $1200+ per student the Boise School District has when compared to Bishop Kelly could go a long way towards higher college entrance exam scores, larger pools of college options and bigger scholarships for kids.

Costs per outcome matter. When the District comes asking for higher inputs, Boise patrons shouldn’t forget to ask about District outcomes. The Boise School District should stop talking nonsense about needing more money and spend what it has more wisely.

Policy analyst Erik Makrush contributed to this report.

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