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APS Per-Pupil Spending Again Highest in Region

by ARLnow.com November 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm 5,826 76 Comments

The Washington Area Boards of Education recently published the results of its annual survey of local schools. The survey revealed that Arlington is still spending the most money per pupil of any D.C. area school system.

Arlington spent $18,047 per pupil in Financial Year 2012, a 4.2 percent increase over the $17,322 per pupil spent in FY 2011. The latest spending figure is still 2.8 percent lower than the $18,569 per pupil spent in FY 2010, however.

Aside from Arlington, Alexandria was the next-highest spender in the region, with $17,618 per pupil spent in FY 2012. That compares to $16,309 per pupil in Falls Church, $14,776 in Montgomery County, $12,820 in Fairfax County, $11,014 in Loudoun County, $9,852 in Prince William County and $9,176 in Prince George’s County.

The most recent news article on D.C. Public Schools spending suggests a cost of $16,408 per pupil.

The Arlington County Taxpayers Association, a persistent critic of local elected officials, had this to say about the spending increase in Arlington:

So, the Arlington School Board hit Arlington taxpayers with a “twofer” — highest cost per pupil and the largest increase from FY 2011 to FY 2012. And imagine, the School Board candidate had no opposition in yesterday’s elections. Can things get any better for Arlington County’s elected worthies?

  • UnlimitedCustoms

    Where does this money go?

  • Pro-Education

    I see this as a good thing. I’m proud that we invest so much in educating our children.

    • novasteve

      It’s not the amount you spend that matter. Some of the worst school systems in the country throw the most money per pupil. The most important factor is the people and how they value education and hard work. If they don’t, no amount of money will get good performance.

    • D’oh

      I generally agree, and think that education should be about the last thing to be cut from state and local budgets. But, while ranked high, aren’t our schools outperformed by other local counties like Fairfax, Loudoun, and MoCo?

      • TGEoA


        • PHD

          actually, no. Arlington schools are not outperformed by those other jurisdictions.

      • Lou

        I think we lead in trailers.

        • spin

          You mean “learning cottages.”

        • curious george

          Or trail in leaders.

          • Lou

            well played

      • Arlington, Northside

        Loudoun does not come close to outperforming our schools. Fairfax County and Montgomery County(in the Potomac, Rockville, Bethesda areas) are pretty much on par and at the same high level as Arlington, with the three shifting top positions ever so slightly each year.

        • JimPB

          Data, please, for schools in various jurisdictions with comparable student populations.

  • Arlington, Northside

    It seems to have worked out well for us, but why are our teachers not the best paid if we are spending this much? I place a high value on our public education system, it is the number one thing that justifies the value of my home. But we need to remember, it is the results, not the spending that counts. DC had close to the highest per student spend in the Nation durning the 90’s and was one of the worst school systems in the Nation.

    • Burger

      That is an easy question…take a look at the growth in non-teachers being hired. The number of people working in the administration is mindboggling and really just a complete drain on the entire system.

  • Louise

    Good for Arlington. We *should* spend this much. Class size counts! Study after study shows that, beyond teacher quality, smaller class size is one of the few things that really makes a difference (after parent involvement). Smaller class size = more staff. And that costs money. Go APS.

    • JimPB

      See below from a 1999 publication of the U.S. Department of Education re: effects of smaller class sizes:


      Summary Research Conclusions

      Overall, the pattern of findings drawn from the existing research leads to the following three conclusions:

      A consensus of research indicates that class size reduction in the early grades leads to higher student achievement. Researchers are more cautious about the question of the positive effects of class size reduction in 4th through 12th grades. The significant effects of class size reduction on student achievement appear when class size is reduced to a point somewhere between 15 and 20 students, and continue to increase as class size approaches the situation of a 1-to-1 tutorial.

      The research data from the relevant studies indicate that if class size is reduced from substantially more than 20 students per class to below 20 students, the related increase in student achievement moves the average student from the 50th percentile up to somewhere above the 60th percentile. For disadvantaged and minority students the effects are somewhat larger.

      Students, teachers, and parents all report positive effects from the impact of class size reductions on the quality of classroom activity.

    • Arlington, Northside

      Except they have not made the class size that much smaller. And when they do, they don’t have space for them except in “modulars”, ie Trailers. Not to sound too snobby or elitist, but aren’t we send our kids to APS Schools with the intention that they DON”T spend their lives in trailers? The School System screwed up 10+ years ago with their population projections.

      • Louise

        I teach in a trailer. It’s fine–really not bad at all. There’s bathrooms, water fountains, etc.

      • Josh S

        I concur that trailers are not necessarily any better or worse than classrooms in the main building.

        • doug

          Well…there’s all kinds of trailers. I teach in a trailer trailer – no water, no bathrooms, lots of ants, less room, bowling alley shape. And I can say there is a significant difference.

    • Resident and teacher

      Class sizes are going UP. The “planning factor” increased by two students this past year, and they are planning to keep increasing it. They are being sneaky and pretending out of a capacity issue, but teachers with over filled classrooms one period, and empty rooms another period, know it is a budget decision. Central office takes more money per student than any school system in the area. This doesn’t help kids learn.

  • JimPB

    More information is needed.

    In particular, is the money being “best used”?

    For example, is extant research being used for the allocation of dollars? One illustration: a robust body of research on adolescent sleep concurs in finding that adolescents get sleepy later and need more sleep. So, if gets sleepy around 11 and needs 9 hrs. of sleep, would awaken and arise around 8. Educational implication: The start time for high school should reflect this, i.e., be 9 AM, or better, a bit after 9. When the start time has been moved back, evaluations show that attentiveness in class increases, especially in the first period class, and most important, grades and educational test scores meaningfully increase. Do start times for ArlCoPS high schools reflect this powerful and likely low cost to implement policy?

    And some questions about output for input, e.g., what is the difference between educational gains for students with teachers near or at the top of the pay schedule and for teachers with a few years of experience (near the bottom of the schedule)? Are we getting more output for more input?

    What needs are not being well met that extant research indicates could be addressed effectively with a new or increased financial investment?

    Where are we spending money and not getting an appropriate return?

    • Burger

      Maybe they shouldn’t be going to bed at 11.

  • The Dope of South Arlington

    What percentage of this princely sum per pupil is spent on English as a second language instruction? Think of the heights our students would achieve if they weren’t being dragged down by the catch-up instruction needed by a plethora of third-world students.

    • novasteve


      • Josh S

        It’s not thought crime, Steve, it’s just a shame.

      • drax

        Steve, you’re aware that The Dope is parody, right?

        No, I don’t think you are.

    • Louise

      Said just like others, about your own ancestors, when they were recent immigrants.

      • The Dope of South Arlington

        Not likely, as there were no public schools in the 17th century.

        • Louise

          Ha! So you’re saying that the Native Americans were THRILLED that your ancestors arrived! Hooray! The white men are here!

          • The Dope of South Arlington

            Really? You are going to use the Indian experience as a justification of unlimited immigration? I suggest you take a moment to think about what happened to the Indian peoples and their culture when they lost control of their borders.

          • ka-ching

            You mean that in 400 years the few remaining white folk will get to build and run casinos? Oh – you meant the bad stuff – sorry. But I don’t know how to gamble in Spanish. . .

          • Smoke_Jaguar4

            I would be more concerned if immigrants ever stopped coming to our nation. For the majority of the world, the U.S. is still the land of opportunity.

      • novasteve

        That’s funny, why didn’t my ancestors get bilingual signs put up at the polling stations for their language?

        • Josh S

          So abuse, prejudice, racial slurs, concentration into slums, etc are OK, but a bilingual sign is cause for uproar?

        • drax

          Perhaps they did, steve. What language did they speak? We can look it up.

      • Burger

        I am very much pro-immigrant but our society bends over backwards coddling immigrants when they should be just dropping them in. No other large mass of immigrants had as much handholding in American history and, not surprising, all those large groups assimilated and succeed in America…can the same be said for the current Hispanic immigration pattern.

        • drax

          The dumbest part of this comment is that it’s nothing new. People have been bashing immigrants for “not assimiliating” for centuries, including the ones people like you now praise as allegedly assimilating easily.

          Ben Franklin complained about how all the Germans in PA refused to learn English and how they were an inferior race and were going to ruin his state.

          The more things change….

    • Mary

      I recall reading within recent months that there are 50 different languages represented among the students of Arlington County Schools. Also, there are high number of children whose parents do not speak English in the home. The cost of educating children of illegal immigrants is huge, not only in Arlington County, but all over the US. Those students for whom English is a second language will drag down the progress of others in any classroom. Children of US citizens suffer as a result, and the taxpayers end up paying for the cost of things such as teachers for English as a second language and other remedial learning.

      • madisonmanor

        And we used to have a mechanism to deal with things like that – it was called “holding back”. My next door neighbor was held back and repeated 2nd grade because he didn’t grasp the concepts well enough to move onto 3rd grade. (He spoke English very well but struggled with basic math and reading comprehension). It was very effective – he graduated a year behind me but learned the material the second time through and never had any other issues. Nowadays, he would be considered “left behind” (not that they would actually do that). Unfortunately, trying to do things like this today reflect badly on the teacher when it is not necessarily the teacher’s fault.

      • Smoke_Jaguar4

        Assuming, of course, that illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes (sales, property, vehicle…) If you’re so concerned about illegal immigration, would you support a crackdown on business owners that hire them? Heavy fines? Revoke business licences? Jail time?

    • Resident and teacher

      “native” Arlington students tend to be their own downfall. Lazy/entitled. Immigrants that I teach are raising the bar, not dragging down the group.

      • 4Arl

        I hope that these and other generalizations don’t have an impact on teaching students.

  • JimPB

    See http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/class-size/ for an update on research evaluation results re: effects of smaller class sizes.

    In sum, it looks to me like
    – small reductions have, at best, small benefits
    – the reduction has to be large (thus very expensive), and it is particularly beneficial for children from disadvantaged families (if it works, this is an investment we arguably need to be make as a just, equal opportunity society
    – teachers have to change how they teach to maximize the benefits of smaller classes (makes sense: if they teach to 15 the same way they teach to 30, why would one expect any difference in results).

    NOTE: When I was in high school, my chemistry class was one of a number that had lectures via tv. They were very well done and engaging (better than the individual classroom teachers would have done). Made sense to have these superb lectures piped in via tv. The availability of a chemistry teacher for a small number of students was most important and meaningful for the lab work (half to two-thirds of the course). With appropriate scheduling and organization of classes, the tv lectures could be combined with the labs (with a live teacher at hand) at little or no overall additional cost.

    • Louise

      JimPB, APS already does this to a degree. It’s been at least 15 years that certain math classes were taught remotely–I remember seeing my math teacher on Arlington Cable Access, teaching one class for all four high schools. Today, it is also done for certain foreign languages, including Chinese and Arabic.

      • Juanita de Talmas

        They did this at my school in FL in the 70s.

  • MC

    I’m all in favor of great schools, but we don’t get our money’s worth. Now APS is higher even than DC spending — maybe we need charter schools to reduce costs. How can Arlington be 50% more expensive than Fairfax but have less good schools? The traditional rationale has been that we are smaller, so costs are higher. But we spend more per capita than far smaller Falls Church. There is fat to be trimmed in APS — don’t think the administration is sufficiently concerned about delivering value.

    • Ken Jones

      Given that there is absolutely no evidence that charter schools improve test scores — in fact the available evidence suggests they do not — one must wonder how this particular “reform” can be seen as successful.

      The much-heard argument that they are innovative is also not true. In fact, as a whole, they are more driven toward teaching to the test than the beleaguered public schools themselves.

      We worry about the quality of teaching, but charter schools are known for having less-qualified and less-prepared teachers than the public schools. We worry about meeting the needs of all students, yet charter schools include far fewer students with special needs.

      But still our business community, corporate media and governor are determined to push this “solution”

      Why? Is it because it they are a good way to bust those nefarious teachers’ unions that are always getting in the way of “progress”? Is it because of the common practice of diverting taxpayer money into the private sector through the corporate management of charter schools? Is it because the inevitable public-private partnerships are an incremental move toward a more complete privatization of public schooling?

      When the powerful forces of government, media, and business jointly promote an idea as good for the common people, we should all beware.

      In education, we can see how well such rhetoric has worked out with the No Child Left Behind law, a force for the destruction of quality public schools if ever there was one.

      Who gains from charter schools? As money is drained away from our existing public schools, certainly not the children who are left behind.

      Charter schools are designed to privilege the few at the expense of the whole. They are not a reform intended to improve our public schools. They are a means of abandoning them.

      • Burger

        Thank you, NEA rep spouting the union talking points about how charter schools do not beat public schools where all evidence indicates it does.

        • JimPB

          Charles Murry, an empiricism and conservative, has looked at the evaluations of Charter vs. Public Schools, and concludes that the evidence does NOT support Charter schools having better educational outcomes. Murray still argues for Charter schools, but for other reasons.

          The failure to find differences in educational outcomes for comparable students between Charter and Public Schools was expected by some of us. Education is like medicine 100 years, with a few things that kind of work and a lot that is hog wash. Imagine asking doctors 100 years ago to improve their patient outcomes. They could try and worker harder, but without the subsequent science and technology, they wouldn’t be able to do much if any better.

        • drax

          Evidence you’re about to post, right Burger?

      • esmith69

        Yikes, your post makes me want to VOMIT. Quite possibly one of the worst posts I’ve ever seen on ARLnow.

        If you’re going to spout off a bunch of virtiolic statements without even attempting to provide facts to back them up, you should at least conclude by reminding people that what you’ve just said is just your own opinion.

        Instead, you speak as if your opinion is gospel.

        • esmith69

          Sorry, that was in response to Ken “Mindless Drone” Jones. Obviously I agree completely with Burger’s comment.

          • Vinh An Nguyen

            you should at least conclude by reminding people that what you’ve just said is just your own opinion

            Virtually everything posted in the arlnow comments is ‘just opinion’. Anyone with a brain doesn’t need to be reminded of that.

          • Village Idiot

            Is that your opinion?

  • MomofTeens

    We get what we pay for here in Arlington; our schools are amazing – all three high schools consistently rank in the top 100 in the Time Magazine top 100 schools in the country (out of 100,000). I’m happy to see my tax dollars going toward the schools.

    • Burger

      You are talking about Newsweek…and no they don’t.

    • Resident and teacher

      The schools are good, but newsweek defines good as how many ap tests are given and passed. How many years of outstanding teachers in a kid’s education get ignored by a statistic like that? And schools are very actively pushing more kids into more AP courses to make their school look better. Education (and high school) is far far more than that!!!

      • Carol_R

        AP classes are inappropriate in my opinion in our high school settings. Instead they should do what they did when I went to high school here and pay for kids to take the classes at NOVA while still attending high school. College level courses shouldn’t be taught at the high school level. And many colleges don’t accept the AP test but will accept the transfer of credits from an accredited Community College.

        • Nobody

          Community College courses are not at all challenging for an AP level high school student.

  • Hikin’ the pike

    I thank those leaving comments for not saying that Arlington’s teachers are overpaid. The fact is that Arlington is not number 1 on salaries compared to area districts. We are close to other districts for teachers in the middle of the scales. However our pay for beginning and veteran teachers falls significantly behind other area districts including Fairfax, Alexandria, Prince William and Loudoun. The comparisons have been done, but do them for yourself. Every district posts their salary scales online in the human resource section.

    • Lillie Redschoolhouse

      Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former First Lady Laura Bush, and plenty of other U.S. leaders have insisted for years that teacher salaries are far too low. But in a new report, two conservative think tanks say that teachers’ paychecks are actually just as generous as those received by private-sector workers with comparable qualifications. And when you factor in public school teachers’ total compensation, including benefits, teachers receive as much as 52 percent more than the “fair market levels” for their skills warrant, say Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation and Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

      • Nora

        Heck no. I made a lot more in industry than I make in teaching, which is why I am going back to industry after this year. I love teaching, but the pay, benefits, and working conditions are dreadful. I’m not sure what the basis is for the findings you are referencing. At a high school level in particular, teachers in certain subjects can make a LOT more money in private industry. One of the problems with hiring high school teaching is that there is no mechanism for paying more for teachers in disciplines for which there is a shortage/more demand.

  • Rick

    What the school report doesn’t account for is the number of students attending “private schools” within Northern VA who’s parents pay county taxes and still pay for tution, saving VA extra cost for hiring more teachers and bulidng more schools.

    • Maeve

      Irrelevant. The students who go to private schools are generally the ones who demand very little from the school system — they speak English, need very little special education support, and have a home environment where they are encouraged and supported in their studies. In fact, losing these students from the population can be seen as a net loss to the school system since it is so valuable to have students surrounded by peers who are from homes where education is highly valued.

      When the private schools start enrolling the multiply handicapped kids who must (by law) be constantly cared for by trained attendants, the kids who must be sent (again, required by law) to expensive out of state residential treatment programs, the kids with severe behavioral or substance abuse problems who would be quickly expelled from private schools, or any of the other needy groups who cannot be educated without multiple expensive supports in place, then we can talk about how much money they are saving the taxpayers.

      I am not questioning the need for these supports. I myself have a handicapped child and know how necessary they are. But people act as if every A-student, able-bodied, English speaking, neurotypical kid with two wealthy well-educated parents and ample family support is costing the school system precisely $18,047.00. That’s not how it works.

  • Shirley

    This town disgusts me sometimes.

  • Carol_R

    Actually I’ve read an article that spendind per pupil in DC for 2010 was $28,000 – although DC officials tried to claim it was only around $14,000. But if you took all school spending and divided it by the number of pupils it was $28,000 so they waste tons of money.

    The key to good schools isn’t money – you can have great schools and a great education using very little money. The key is students who work hard and parents who make them work hard and are involved. That’s why Charter and Private schools as well as the Magnate programs do so well because to get into them parents have to apply for their kids and they along with the kids have to agree to specific rules.

  • Village Idiot

    If I was not a village idiot, my plan for the schools would be to spend $100 million to replace each high school. Then tear down the old high school. And, then be “oh, so surprised” that we do not have enough classroom space now and no plans for the crush of additional students coming in the very near future.

    • Smoke_Jaguar4

      Now that DoD is BRAC’ing out of Crystal City, take one of those highrise office buildings and covert it into a new highschool for Pentagon/Crystal City/Aurora Hills and the families of office workers in the area. For Physical Education use the fields at Aurora Highlands park. Think outside the box.

      • Lou

        “take” one of those buildings? Just how would that work exactly?

        • Smoke_Jaguar4

          I meant purchase or lease, not eminent domain 😮
          Perhaps give the building owner some tax breaks.

      • Louise

        Smoke, these are great ideas. The school board is hosting meetings for folks to share their thinking–you should attend.

  • sue

    the sheer size of Fairfax county/Montgomery county vs tiny Arlington Co. does not allow for adequate comparison. We also have a much more diverse population/English as second language statistically per total # of students.

    I would definitely send my kids to a top-performing Arlington school over one of the other counties any day (in fact I am!). I was a product of Ffx county public schools and really am amazed they are rated so well…my kids elementary school is incredible and worlds above the attention/education I received in FFx.

  • Thrifty1

    We would save some money if we hired one or two employees to investigate the hundreds of students who are going to Arlington County Schools, but live in Woodbridge, DC, and Fairfax. They just need to be dishonest on an A/B form and everyone looks the other way.


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