Number Gut, Continued

Years ago, Shannon Love did a series of posts on these pages about “number gut”. From this post:

A number gut is an intuitive feel for the possible magnitude of a particular number that describes a particular phenomenon. A good number gut tells you if the results of some calculation are at least in the ball park.

My number gut (or b.s. detector, in this case) went off today when I saw this story. Here is the money:

Chicago Public Schools officials on Monday proposed a $5.7 billion operating budget for the upcoming school year…

Holy crap that is a lot of money. There are 396,000 students in the CPS. $5.7bb / 396k = $15,447 per student. Really.

From this article from 2014 about the most expensive private schools in Illinois, it looks like all of the students could go to Loyola Academy, and can almost all go to St. Ignatius College Prep for that kind of money.

Just sayin’.

15 thoughts on “Number Gut, Continued”

  1. When I was researching private schools in San Antonio in the early 1990s for my daughter, tuition for a day student (as opposed to a boarding school student) at the priciest Episcopal school in town was round and about $6,000 a year. (School is a good one, too – now and again they have a student who scores a perfect score on their SAT; has all the bells and whistles, landscaped campus, every possible facility.) I had read that in most urban school systems that was also about the same cost per pupil per year. I wondered at the time why public schools had so little to show for all the money they were spending per pupil.

  2. The best local private schools in south Orange County were organized back in the 80s by doctors for their kids. We found an Episcopal priest, Father Sellers, who was a retired headmaster at another school and he set up three private schools, beginning with St Margaret’s Episcopal School which is now frighteningly expensive but which began in trailers when my son Joe and my daughter Claire attended.

    Joe’s graduating high school class was 25 and they are all still close friends 30 years later. Joe is 46. Claire is 35.

    Annie attended another of Father Seller’s schools, St Mary and All Angles, which is still excellent and not as expensive as St Margaret’s.

    The builders of Mission Viejo, donated land and money to found a Catholic high school, Santa Margarita Catholic High School, which looks like a college. Annie and Claire both graduated from there, So did Carson Palmer, the USC and NFL quarterback.

    The Catholic church was very slow to get on the private school bandwagon. They were much more concerned about the illegal Mexicans in Santa Ana.

  3. “St. Mary and All Angles” – a Catholic school with an emphasis on geometry.

    I’m pretty sure they could eliminate the whole CPD system, except for the minimal administration required to write the checks, and just send all the kids to Archdiocese of Chicago schools for 2/3 the cost, max.

  4. Sending all students would severely limit the chance for graft. Ergo; it’ll never happen. Graft is the oxygen and blood supply for almost any government program. Sad.

  5. A good while ago, I read an article, perhaps in Reason, that pointed out that schools always lie about per pupil spending in that they leave out capital expenditures and so make the figure artificially low. A figure of $15,000 for Chicago, where pervasive dishonesty undoubtedly makes government “services” more expensive, sounds about right compared to Seattle schools operations expense of $12,746 per student. The total figure for each student, including capital spending, is $19,051, so the Chicago number undoubtedly doesn’t include capital spending.

    If the number had been over $20,000, I might have doubted it, or under $10,000, but $15,000 down a bottomless rat hole sounds just about right.

  6. Regarding Chicago public schools and the Archdiocese,
    the city of Chicago has been threatening to end the water bill exemption of Archdiocesan schools. They now get free water, but making them pay would cost them several hundred thousand dollars per year.

    Ending the exemption was first proposed a few years ago, but a compromise was reached. I’m not one to buy into conspiracies, but it may have been more than a coincidence that several Catholic schools subsequently closed after the deal. Now the exemption is a Sword of Damocles hanging over the new Archbishop’s head.

    I’m sure the Catholic schools are now treading very carefully to avoid appearing to usurp any of CPD’s authority.

  7. CPS, that is – autocorrect – that’s the last thing the schools need is to get on the bad side of the police.

  8. In England twenty or so years ago a private school bursar showed that if you correctly accounted for capital expenditure, pension costs, and administrative overheads, state schools were as expensive as private. So Tonestaple’s truth extends to both sides of the Atlantic.

  9. How many of those 396,00 students are in class on a given day?

    What percentage of the $15,447 is going to go to funding pensions?

  10. “just send all the kids to Archdiocese of Chicago schools for 2/3 the cost, max.”

    In New York City, about ten years ago, I read that the Archdiocese had 500,000 kids in the Catholic schools that had an administrative staff of about 50.

    The NY public schools had 1700 schools and $25 billion in spending.

    I spent some time but can’t find a number for administrators for the public schools. There are a million kids so it is about double the Archdiocese.

  11. A hick’s answer: consolidation hurt the schools. I’ve probably said it endlessly on here, but the graduates from my village – <200 from K-12 – did and do disproportionately well academically. There's pressure to perform and a sense of identity. A certain accountability comes if you aren't teaching well when you meet the parents at a weekend barbeque.

    I think teacher's colleges, teacher's unions, pedagogical theories have screwed things up, but sometimes people just want to teach and those schools are attractive. It can seem suffocating but it is also roughly egalitarian. Sure the best scholar & athlete & prettiest girl & kid with the most land are known – but being together through 13 years and pretty much the same teachers forges bonds: everyone is in it together.

    My kids think I idealize – but I don't have specially fond memories; it just works. My brother's grandson is applying to med school this fall, perhaps all the more prepared because his parents wanted him to be the 5th generation through that school. There's nothing more transparent than being a school like that in a town of 500 – and the patience for someone sitting there "administrating" and being paid by the other 499 is pretty limited.

  12. WOW! $15447 per student. That is more expensive than Joliet Catholic where we sent all 4 of our kids. I think the current tuition is about $12,000 per year.

  13. “consolidation hurt the schools. ”

    My great grandfather settled in a town in Illinois called Odell. Present day census is about 1,000. Thirty years ago or so, Odell high school had three National Merit Scholars in a period of around five or six years. Then, the school was closed and all the kids had to go to a Livingston County union high school with a big student body and union teachers.

    I have not heard of any National Merit Scholars since then.

  14. Mike,

    I grew up in a rural West Texas town that had one of those small schools, total K-12 ~350 kids. It seems like about every 4-5 years the state education agency tries floating consolidation of all the small town schools into bigger entities. The bureaucrats hate dealing with large numbers of somewhat independent schools. It is much easier to keep a smaller number of big mega schools under control.

    Besides, what good is a National Merit Scholar to a bureaucrat? It does not pay his salary, and makes parental expectations too high, causing him/her to have to work harder……

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