Education Secretary Arne Duncan is new to Washington, but he's wasted no time perpetuating the canard that the underachieving District school system is flush with cash.
"D.C. has had more money than God for a long time, but the outcomes are still disastrous," Duncan said in a March 4 visit with Post editors and reporters.
But a recent study shows that D.C., ranked against the 50 states, is 13th in per-pupil expenditures ($11,193), placing it behind Vermont, Wyoming, New Jersey, New York, Maine, Rhode Island, Alaska, Connecticut, Montana, Massachusetts, Delaware and Pennsylvania. The January study by EPE Research Center, a division of the nonprofit that publishes Education Week, used Department of Education data from 2005-06 (the latest year available) and adjusted for regional cost differences. It found the national average was $9,963.
Closer to home, a 2007 study by school budget watchdog Mary Levy concluded that DCPS spent almost $4,000 less per pupil than Alexandria, $3,500 less than Arlington County, and about $1,500 more than Fairfax County.
This was news to Duncan.
"That's good to know," he said today as he made his first official visit to a D.C. public school, Amidon-Bowen Elementary on I Street near the Southwest waterfront. Joined by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and D.C. State Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist, Duncan read to the grade schoolers ("Reading Makes You Feel Good," by Todd Parr) and took a few questions, including this from a little boy:
"What are you good at?"
Duncan's complete answer wasn't audible over the wave of laughter. He ended by saying, "Every day I try to get a little better."