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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.

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