In 1970, when I graduated from an inner-city working class Catholic high school — Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School — the tuition was $300 annually.
Today, that Jackson Heights, Queens school continues to thrive and grow.
A majority of the 900+ students are minorities whose parents struggle — as mine did — to pay a tuition bill that now totals $9,000.
But the parents and their children believe that the sacrifice is worth it.
That’s because 100 percent of the graduates are not only accepted into colleges but are academically prepared for it; and many are awarded scholarships.
Contrast that with New York State public schools.
In 2014-2015, the median per student spending was $22,658 and only 40 percent of high school graduates were prepared for college.
To get a handle on the costs and trends in New York’s public education, readers should peruse state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s Special Report: “Education in New York.”
The DiNapoli report excludes New York City — which spends over $20,000 per pupil, has a dropout rate of 9 percent, an on-time graduation rate of 70 percent, and only half of its graduates college-ready — “because it is so large that it would heavily weigh many statewide statistics, making it difficult to distinguish differences among the other regions of the State.”
Despite this omission, the report does contain a number of interesting findings.
Median spending per student in New York is highest in Long Island and the mid-Hudson region (i.e., Westchester County), $26,168 and $26,636, respectively.
Both regions rely heavily on property taxes and other local revenues to fund its schools.
On Long Island, 67.6 percent of the total school revenues come from local taxes and in the mid-Hudson, it’s 65.5 percent.
New York’s Southern Tier and Western New York, for example, are more heavily dependent on state aid because property taxes cover only 37 percent of total education expenditures.
Since 2005, spending in Long Island and throughout the state outpaced inflation growing at an average annual rate of 1.4 percent.
What’s interesting is that spending has continued to grow annually even though “most districts lost students over the past decade, and many experienced declines of more than 20 percent.”
Long Island’s student population has declined about 3 percent between 2005 and 2015.
Although school expenditures have increased every year, the DiNapoli report reveals that “instructional expenditures have decreased as a share of total spending.”
Classroom spending has gone down because teacher fringe benefits “including health insurance and pension contributions — have grown.”
In 2015, 59 cents of every education dollar was dedicated to instructional expenditures. In 2005, it was 54 cents.
As for teacher fringe benefits, 24 cents was expended in 2015 versus 18 cents in 2005.
Why are classroom expenditures as a percent of total spending declining?
Answer: From 2009-2015, the statewide median teacher salary rose by 13 percent. The statewide median teacher salary in 2015 was $75,115 and on Long Island it hit $106,181.
And there’s the never-ending costs of overly generous pensions.
The average pension of a teacher who retired in 2016 after 30 years of service in New York, is $68,000.
For Long Island teachers, the average annual payout is $89,692.
Newsday has reported that numerous school district superintendents have been receiving pensions as high as $250,000. (Remember, retired New York public employees do not have to pay state income or FICA taxes on their pension proceeds.)
Year in and year out, homeowners are paying more in school taxes while less is being spent directly on students.
Meanwhile, the Catholic high school I attended and many like it in New York are turning out educated children at less than half the cost of public schools.
Maybe it’s time for public officials to sit down with Catholic school principals to learn their cost-effective methods for successfully educating children under their care.
But don’t hold your breath waiting for such meetings.
Most local pols don’t have the nerve to think outside the box because they fear the wrath of the public school teacher’s union.