Friday, October 17, 2008

More Shibboleths

Two important points regarding last evenings’ candidate forum featuring the race for the District 6 Seat on the Clarke County Board of Education came to mind:

1. Challenger Jim Geiser’s claim concerning per pupil expenditures for the Clarke County School District is entirely correct. The figure for 2007 was $10,746.94, as can be readily verified on the Georgia Department of Education web site (I know because I’m the one who has been whining about per pupil expenditures since forever – Geiser may have even read about it here). District 6 incumbent Charles Worthy’s figure of $9616, actually $9616.96 to be precise, dates from 2006 and can be similarly verified.

Perhaps Mr. Worthy got that $9616 from either the HTML or PDF versions of the CCSD’s “Facts & Figures.” The two versions are inconsistent and both are mathematically incorrect. The briefest of basic calculations reveal that either one is wrong, as the same per pupil expenditure is given for two different operating budget amounts – neither of which works out to the $9616 cited – and the total number of students differs from the aggregate of the different school levels added together.

No disrespect intended, but this speaks well for neither Mr. Worthy, who serves as the President of the Board of Education, nor for the CCSD generally.

2. Mr. Worthy’s argument that the CCSD’s per pupil expenditure reflects a “high special needs population” doesn’t really work either. According to the Georgia Department of Education’s 2006-2007 Report Card, here are the percentages of “students with disabilities” and with “limited English proficiency" for Clarke and surrounding counties (you may have to click around a bit to get to the student demographics pages):

Students with Disabilities:

Barrow County 13%
Clarke County 15%
Jackson County 12%
Madison County 14%
Oconee County 10%
Oglethorpe County 13%
Statewide 12%

Limited English Proficient:

Barrow County 9%
Clarke County 10%
Jackson County 4%
Madison County 1%
Oconee County 2%
Oglethorpe County 1%
Statewide 5%

Compare the above percentages with per pupil expenditures for 2007:

Barrow County $7758.65
Clarke County $10,746.94
Jackson County $9146.91
Madison County $8219.87
Oconee County $8094.84
Oglethorpe County $8194.25
Statewide $8428.05

So, the CCSD is marginally higher than its neighbors with regard to students with disabilities and a little more so regarding limited English proficiency. And these relatively minor differences are supposed to account for the huge disparity in spending, not just among these relatively small subsets of the student population noted here but for the much larger student population as a whole?

Again, not a chance.

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