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Math for Charities

December 13, 2012

A local non-profit that loves bashing public education (and really any government expenditure) asked readers to help with a math question. Using publicly available data, they posit that the average classroom costs schools $149,418. Since the average teacher salary is $44,094, they ask where the rest of that money goes.

They even use this misleading graphic to illustrate their point:

bad at math pie chart

(not the true cost of a classroom teacher)

The writer – who according to the organization’s IRS Form 990 (Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax) makes roughly the amount in red – could easily have answered his own question, rather than asking it rhetorically and implying that something nefarious happens with that money. He cites the Office of Accountability, which most recently published data for the 2010-11 school year. If he cared to, he could have included the following information, showing a breakdown of school expenses:

Expenditure Category

Statewide Percentage of Expenses

Instruction

61.1%

Instructional Support

1.8%

District Administration

2.8%

School Administration

4.7%

Student Support

4.8%

District Support

13.1%

Other

11.6%

The Office of Accountability describes those categories in more detail, but logic can answer some of those questions too. A teacher making that salary also costs the district about $15,000 in benefits and payroll taxes. Textbooks cost money. So does heat and air. And buses. And computers. And electricity. And other staff such as clerical, custodial, and maintenance employees.

The article even has a snarky comment from the state director of another charity, blaming the exorbitant cost of district administration. Yep, that 2.8 percent is keeping money out of the classrooms, alright.

As I’ve mentioned before, Oklahoma is rife with partisan non-profit think tanks with highly-paid employees operating under the same tax-exempt rules as real charities, such as Habitat for Humanity. They are given credence and a voice by the state’s largest newspaper. Their tactics include maligning all things public, presenting partial information, or in this case, butchering elementary math. Their only goal is to further the tax cut agenda for the wealthiest of Americans, and more importantly, corporations. Truth doesn’t matter.

I went to public school, and I can figure that out.

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  1. AK
    December 14, 2012 at 1:55 am

    I knew before I even looked who initially blogged the numbers you share. How someone who came from solid public schools in Bartlesville could despise public school as he now does is beyond me. However, I’m sure the 6-digit salary you speak of helps…one has to support the cause that pays them!

    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis.

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