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'Cost-per-Pupil' -- Arlington vs. Fairfax County

Rather than focusing on what school officials say, this Growler finds it instructive to look at the numbers in financial and budget documents. Take the 'cost-per-pupil' numbers, for example, in the Fiscal Year 2006 adopted budgets for the Arlington and Fairfax County public schools. Both budgets point out the usefulness of the number in analyzing expenditures over time and analyzing one school system's expenditures to those of another. In Arlington's FY2006 adopted budget (page 39, Introduction, Adobe required), one also sees that Arlington's cost-per-pupil for FY2006 is $16,464, an annual increase of 7.62% over the FY2005 amount of $15,271. The budget claims Arlington's cost per pupil is higher than other Washington-area schools is "due in part to Arlington's committment to kindergarten and preschool education." The Arlington budget also includes a chart separating that $16,464 into money going to schools ($13,122), facilities ($1,350), instructional support ($873), leadership ($165), and management and support services ($955).

The cost-per-pupil information presented in Fairfax County's adopted FY2006 budget (pages 149-151, Information) is relatively more informative. First, they present a chart how Fairfax County's cost-per-pupil in FY2005 of $11,022 compares to other Washington-area schools. There is also a chart, which presents the cost-per-pupil for general education ($10,063 for FY2006 although they also report numbers for kindergarten, elementary, and high school), special education ($17,601) and for all instructional programs in FY2006 ($11,915). Finally, the Fairfax budget presents the cost-per-pupil for three alternative programs ($16,062 - $21,078), for students who speak other languages ($3,226), and special (various depending on services needed).

Does Fairfax County have a better accounting system, better computers, or just a desire to present more transparent infromation to their taxpayers?