- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2007

D.C. public schools spend more money per student than any state in the region, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The District spent $12,979 per student on classroom costs such as teacher salaries and textbooks in fiscal 2005, according to the report released yesterday.

Only New York and New Jersey spent more — $14,119 and $13,800 per student, respectively — when ranked by state.

By comparison, Maryland ranked 13th, at $9,815 spent per student. Virginia was 21st, with $8,891 spent per student. The national per pupil average was $8,701, the report said.

School board President Robert C. Bobb said despite D.C. students being among the most funded, the numbers are misleading.

“Comparing a high cost urban area such as the District to entire states with urban and rural areas is a false comparison,” Mr. Bobb said. “The [Government] Accountability Office and numerous other organizations that have studied the issue have concluded that costs for providing services in the District of Columbia are simply higher than they are elsewhere.”

He said the District actually invests less in education than some jurisdictions in the region.

Alexandria spent about $14,500 per student, according to the report. Fairfax County spent about $10,900; Montgomery County, about $12,000; and Prince George’s County, about $9,300.

The report said the District had the nation’s highest state budget — $17,809 per student — in fiscal 2005, about $1,600 more than New Jersey, which was second.

Despite the high funding rate, D.C. schools have struggled with student performance and declining enrollment.

In 2005, 55 percent of fourth-graders and 69 percent of eighth-graders in the District tested below basic math levels, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

By comparison, 21 percent of fourth-graders and 34 percent of eighth-graders in Maryland were below the basic level. In Virginia, 17 percent of fourth-graders and 25 percent of eighth-graders failed to meet the basic level.

In addition, 67 percent of fourth-graders and 55 percent of eighth-graders tested below basic levels in reading in the District, compared to 35 and 21 percent in Maryland and 28 and 22 percent in Virginia.

Poor student performance and progress led D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in January to propose a takeover of the schools.

The mayor’s proposal was approved by the city council last month. The bill was passed by both the House and Senate earlier this month and awaits President Bush’s signature.

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