I’m happy to see Public School Forum read our study on how much districts spend to educate a high school graduate (Access Study here). However, I have to disagree with their contention that the primary difference in per graduate costs per school system results from differences in graduation rates.
It’s true our study includes the cost of dropouts in the calculation of costs. However, to do otherwise would be to ignore the costs of educating approximately 30 percent of students who fail to graduate high school four years after entering.
The data show the single largest factor in determining overall cost to graduate is per student spending. As you can see from table there is great variability in spending among districts in North Carolina. Hyde County Schools has the highest per student spending at $178,999 while Randolph County Schools spent $79,985. Our formula then divides those numbers by the district graduation rate.
The dropout rate certainly influences the costs to graduate. However, it’s a mistake to ignore the most significant factor in determining overall costs to graduate: per student spending. To do so would be to miss the main questions raised by the analysis: why can some districts spend far less educating a high school graduate than others? Are districts that spend far more to graduate a student from high school, using taxpayer money wisely?