The article "In Maryland, A Tale of Two Schools" compares dollar expenditures per pupil between two classrooms in two Maryland school districts. Although the article was well intended and well written, comparisons using raw, unadjusted dollar figures are statistically flawed.
Maryland is working with the National Forum on Educational Statistics to develop methods for adjusting educational expenditures to better reflect the real dollar costs. In order to make valid comparisons the raw dollar figures must be adjusted to reflect inflation in depreciation schedules, differences in the cost of living, differences in the cost of raw land etc.
In the article the raw-dollar expenditure per pupil difference is given as $1,970. If just the comparative classroom teacher salaries are adjusted for cost-of-living differences, the dollar cost per pupil difference is reduced by $415. Further cost-of-living adjustments for school bus drivers, administrators and other district employees will reduce the dollar cost per pupil difference even farther.
Inflation-adjusted depreciation schedules are also essential factors necessary for valid comparisons. Only after proper adjustments are made can valid dollar-cost-per-pupil comparisons be made.
Even weather conditions vary from one area to another, affecting operating and maintenance costs, as well as lost student-attendance revenue from school closings. Some schools have higher per pupil transportation costs. Some school districts have mostly newer schools, while others have mostly older ones. Using schools for adult education, thereby extending their hours of heating and cooling, add to the variables that must be adjusted for purposes of comparing dollar costs per in-school pupil. Fortunately, computers can now handle the problems of making proper adjustments in raw-dollar expenditures so that we can properly compare dollar expenditures between schools and between school districts.
A real eye-opener would be a comparison of educational tax dollars collected per pupil in different school districts. These raw dollar figures will be far more revealing to the taxpayers who pay for the education of America's youth. Local school taxes should be permitted to vary between districts. But federal and state adjusted dollar costs per pupil should be administered equitably, because state and the federal governments share the responsibility of equitable distribution of educational tax dollars.
If Montgomery County raises more local educational tax dollars than another county, why shouldn't Montgomery students benefit from these increased dollars? That is part of the free-enterprise system that has made this nation great, and it is why schools in Montgomery have computers, while schools in some other counties lack such amenities. GEORGE WOOLLEY Kensington