Or maybe you should put down the glass. Both NJ Spotlight and the Star-Ledger suggest that the data is “suspect” in the context of national spending because most states include pricey but non-instructional items like transportation, food services, pension payments, health benefits in publicly-accessible databases, and NJ doesn’t. From the Star-Ledger:
"The data are not completely accurate," said [Education Commissioner Chris] Cerf, who was appointed in December and is awaiting Senate confirmation. "They under-represent and drastically understate the per-pupil cost, and I’m committed to doing a better job on this in the future. These data need to improve."Example: the DOE Report Card database lists Newark’s average comparative-cost-per-pupil as dropping from $19,058 in 2008-2009 to $13,833 in 2010. But the Newark Business Administrator says that “actual spending was $18,894.”
As long as we’re dealing with educational absurdities, take a look at At Avalon Elementary School, pointed to by the Star-Ledger as the most expensive school district in the state. According to the DOE, there are 77 kids in the grade 1-8 school (maybe there weren’t any kindergarteners last year?), with a high of 13 kids in eighth grade and a low of 5 kids in sixth grade. Comparative cost per pupil is $35,882.
The Star-Ledger quotes chief school administrator David Rauenzahn, who defends the cost because “student achievement in Avalon... is very good and residents support their schools.”
Damn straight they do.