The "fun" begins soon

A lot of changes have been legislated in education in recent years, and many of those changes due dates are almost upon us. Here is jus a sample of what we can expect and when, from Common Core and report cards to teacher evaluations.

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Next week we will begin to take a look at each of these and asses their merits and readiness.

Public education - a middle class bargain

The USDA has just released their annual report (issued annually since 1960), "Expenditures on Children by Families". finding that:

  • A middle-income family with a child born in 2011 can expect to spend about $234,900 ($295,560 if projected inflation costs are factored in*) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years.
  • For the year 2011, annual child-rearing expenses per child for a middle-income, two-parent family ranged from $12,290 to $14,320, depending on the age of the child.
  • A family earning less than $59,410 per year can expect to spend a total of $169,080 (in 2011 dollars) on a child from birth through high school.
  • Similarly, middle-income parents with an income between $59,410 and $102,870 can expect to spend $234,900.
  • A family earning more than $102,870 can expect to spend $389,670.

For middle-income families, housing costs are the single largest expenditure on a child, averaging $70,560 or 30 percent of the total cost over 17 years. Child care and education (for those incurring these expenses) and food were the next two largest expenses, accounting for 18 and 16 percent of the total cost over 17 years. These estimates do not include costs associated with pregnancy or the cost of a college education or education beyond high school.

Child care and education expenses consist of day care tuition and supplies; baby-sitting; and elementary and high school tuition, books, fees, and supplies. Books, fees, and supplies may be for private or public schools. However, according to the report, child care and education was the only budgetary component for which about half of all households reported no expenditure.

Without a free public education, the educational expense of raising a child would be the number 1 expense by far. Consider that in Ohio, the per student public school cost is ~$10,000. That would cost the typical 2 child family $20,000 per year, for a total of ~ $260,000 for the entire K-12 education - more than the total expense the USDA reports for raising a child!

It's hard to imagine a greater bargain that that.

Here's a look at how costs have changed since 1960

Expenditures on Children by Families, 2011

Common Core, costly

The Cincinnati Enquirer has an article pointing to the logistical and expensive costs ahead to implement the Common Core Curriculum, which is set to begin in earnest in 2014. One of the first major hurdles is having the requisite infrastructure in place to accommodate the millions of computer based tests that will occur.

The new tests will be taken online, replacing the standardized No. 2 pencil-and-paper tests that Ohio schools have always used.

While local school leaders like the idea of online testing, the switch is also creating concern because it's unclear who's going to pay for the computers and software upgrades needed for the new system. District officials worry the state will pass costs onto local districts - and their taxpayers. That's something many districts fear they won't be able to afford.

At a time when requests for new school levies are proving difficult to pass, and Columbus is keen to abrogate its responsibility to funding public education, additional costs like this are sure to hit districts up and down the state hard. Not only will schools need to significantly boost their IT hardware spending, but the level of IT infrastructure needed to support these new testing requirements will also require on going IT support to keep it all running smoothly.

Without additional computers or greater wireless capability, the new tests shrink the number of computers available for remedial classes and other kinds of instruction, Farmer said.

"We'd be very much in trouble if they expect us to do all that (testing) online," he said.

Northwest voters, like Cincinnati's, rejected a combination bond issue/operating levy this month that would have paid to renovate the high schools and improve technology.

With the selection of the consortia Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), Ohio might also expect to test its students even more.

Instead of tests once a year, the new tests will probably be taken at least twice a year, said Dennis Evans, an Ohio Department of Education spokesman.

With each of these millions of tests costing at least $14 each, it's not just the cost of IT infrastructure that needs to be contended with anymore.

Whatever the merits of these policies as tools to increase educational quality, it is clear that Ohio is going to need to find a way to invest more readily in these transitional efforts.