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Arlington Public Schools: Ordinary Services. Extraordinary Prices?

Back on May 22 of this year, we growled that Arlington's public schools were not just the most expensive in Virginia from a taxpayers' perspective, but ranked 13th nationally on a cost-per-student basis. Yesterday, we growled that the cost of the Washington-Lee replacement high school would exceed by a significant margin the "Top 10%" of the most expensive high schools in the nation.

Today, we looked and found school facilities cost data at the Virginia Department of Education's website, and it shows the Arlington Public Schools have a habit of building the most extravagant schools in Virginia. For example, in 1999-2000, 14 new elementary schools were put under construction (Adobe required). Of these, the average school provided 102 square feet per student, but the Arlington School Board provided 118 square feet. The average cost for the 14 was $107.51 per square foot, but Arlington's elementary school cost $146.68 per square foot. The bottom line was that while the average cost per student for the 14 schools was $10,916, the cost per student for the Arlington school was $17,297.

Eight high schools and Arlington's Langston facility were put under construction in 2001-2002. For the building costs only, the average for the eight high schools was $99.43 per square foot, but for Langston, it was $137.80.

During 2003-2004, construction on four middle or intermediate schools was begun, including Kenmore Middle School. The average square feet per pupil for the four schools was 172, but for Arlington's Kenmore M.S., the Arlington School Board provided 225 square feet. The average cost per square foot for the four was $125.66, but for Kenmore it was $141.68. For the four schools, the cost per
student basis was $21,569, but for Arlington's Kenmore M.S., it was $31,830.

When either the Arlington County Board or the Arlington School Board talk about Arlington being a world-class community, the taxpayers of Arlington certainly understand the price of that kind of talk. Unfortunately, Arlington voters continue approving school bond referenda by a significant margin.