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The True Cost of Educating a K-12 Public School Student: TaxWatch Releases an Update

March 21, 2019 - 9:00am

A new report by taxpayer research institute 40-year-old Florida TaxWatch provides an update of the true average cost of educating a K-12 public school student in Florida. The government watchdog released a similar independent study in March 2017 that considered all categories of expenditures necessary for the operation of public schools.

The most commonly reported per-student spending figures in Florida are based solely on funding provided through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP). For the 2017-18 school year, Florida public schools would have spent an average of $7,307 “per student” in FEFP funding. However, Florida TaxWatch cautions that this figure can be misleading. When expenditures like school construction, voter-approved general obligation bonds, preschool programs, debt service, capital outlay, are factored in, the “true cost” of educating a K-12 public school student during the 2017-18 school year is $10,856.

“It is critical that taxpayers have a clear understanding of how much education revenue is available, how that revenue is spent, what it is spent on, the outcome of such expenditures, and the impact on student achievement,” said Florida Taxwatch President and CEO Dominic M. Calabro. “Taxpayers and policymakers should be able to properly determine whether their state and local K-12 education investments are cost-effective and how they can be constantly improved.”

In addition to the update of the true cost of education, Florida TaxWatch also compared the true cost of traditional district schools to the true cost of charter schools and private school scholarships. TaxWatch estimates the true cost per charter school student for Fiscal Year 2017-18 to be $7,476. The average maximum scholarship available through the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which allows children from low-income and working class families to attend private schools, for fiscal 2017-18 is $6,447.

“According to Florida TaxWatch’s analysis, charter schools and private school scholarships provide cost-effective, competitive alternatives to traditional district schools,” said Chairman Ronald Brise of the Florida TaxWatch Center for Educational Performance Accountability Advisory Board. “It’s imperative that parents have a thorough understanding of K-12 funding so they can make informed decisions regarding the educational programs that best meet their children’s needs.”

The full True Cost of education report is HERE.

Tallahassee-based Florida TaxWatch is supported by voluntary, tax-deductible donations and private grants, and does not accept government funding.


Compare apples to apples. They should break down the cost per student of a general education student and the cost per special education student. Most Charters and Private schools do not take on the special needs students that require expensive extra services as required federally by IDEA. The cost of meeting the extra services for special needs students dramatically skews the per pupil cost in public schools. Take out the special needs students from the calculation and I think you will find the per pupil amount to be roughly the same or lower in public schools.

Cost of Education is something that an e measured and used for comparison. It is a STANDARD. But what about QUALITY of Education? Depending on where a child is schooled there reasonalble comparison cannot be made from different parts of the country... parents whose children in Wisconsin (and like it) don't need to focus on the same subjects as kids in Arizona 9Who love dessert living. I picked thes two state for no particular reason, but only to point out that "the three "R"s "are likely useful Everywhere, I would add "American history and Government comparisons" to the list. THERE IS NO WAY TO COMPARE EDUCATION IN AMERICA! THINK ABOUT IT!

Reasonable comparisons on Math and Reading can be made. It's called NAEP.

Florida comes in at 37th in instructional spending per student ... down with many of the other southern states ... those known for their low educational achievement. And, Florida's instructional spending per student of $5,478 is under half of what the top ten states spend ... and only about one-third of what the state of New York spends. It's simple: if you're only willing to pay WalMart prices ... you're not going to get quality.

more apples to oranges comparisons from politicians. They would have all your children educated in storefronts by their charter buddies who continually contribute handsomely to their political campaigns. Meanwhile, the U.S. drops even further in worldwide education rankings (currently 37th and down 4 more from a year ago), and countries like Finland, who spends 1/3rd per capita of what we spend on education per student, leads the world in education. Why? How? They fund a high quality educational system with no political involvement whatsoever, no charters, no private schools, and kids are simply allowed to study what they are good at. What a strange, simple concept that works. Take the money out of politics and out of decisions on our schools, and watch our educational system and our country flourish again.

Storefronts, un-certified, no resource offers, and less than 2/3rds the funding yet get as good or better results as public schools according to FSA testing for charter schools and U of F research by D. Figlio on private schools. Ouch.

Hard to tell what this article is saying. Are you saying that sending children to these private schools is less expensive than public schools so it is a great idea? So-hold on. Many of these schools are storefronts that do not offer all the services that children need. State capital improvement dollars are being given to groups with no accountability to the Florida taxpayers and then when they go belly up or are caught doing other more nefarious things - that is dollars lost. Capital improvement dollars should be providing a place for our children to be educated for years to come. Public schools that are over tested and regulated are being put into competition with schools where there is little or no oversight. There are many problems with our public schools but tearing the current system into a million pieces will only exacerbate the problems. The entire Medicaid system in Florida and much of the prison system has been privatized. Now our legislators are working on the school system. This is not in the best interest of students or teachers in the State of Florida. In that sense this article starts off good but ends in a very different place. Its like these private schools are a good deal for our children - they are not. Not all - but many are out and out fraudulent. Florida taxpayers DO not buy this.

ADD IN: "daily individual translators", "mandatory breakfast and lunch", "individual tutors", "school supplies", "clothing & shoes", "transportation", "medical care", etc., etc., AND THE "TRUE COSTS" of education INCREASE EXPONENTIALLY...and FLORIDA'S TAXPAYING C-I-T-I-Z-E-N-S are "paying THAT bill" !!!!!!!

so says the large, rotund, unemployed guy from NY, currently sucking off of the Gov't teat. I guess you need more for yourself, eh Tiny? You wouldn't know what taxpayers do or say anyway. Why don't you hall tail back to NY and get a job and at least contribute to their school system poser?!

Pinheads aren't "large" and "rotund", are they ???

So let's bid our Florida children off to the lowest bidder. ???? Is that what you are saying here. You must be retired from another state and all you care about is keeping your taxes low.

So let's bid our Florida children off to the lowest bidder. ???? Is that what you are saying here. You must be retired from another state and all you care about is keeping your taxes low.

So let's bid our Florida children off to the lowest bidder. ???? Is that what you are saying here. You must be retired from another state and all you care about is keeping your taxes low.

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