The Rise in the Cost of Public Education

Why has the cost of public education risen over the last few years?

Instead of answering that question, I decided to price a new truck – no doubt a much easier task.

The truck I priced was a 2013 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab. The base price on the website was $22,525 for a 4-speed automatic. However, there’s an option for a 5-speed automatic, and that’s what I chose.

Hmm, the price increased to $24,610.

The next page on the website offered a choice of different drives: front wheel drive or 4-wheel drive. For safety reasons, I chose the 4-wheel drive.

Interesting, the price rose to $27,085.

Next choice: cruise control. Of course! And the price increased, again. The total is now $28,475.

After several other adds (things like, limited exterior value package ($6,360), V6 tow package ($3,606) and display audio with navigation and Entune ($1,784)) the price of the truck that started out at $22,525 ended at $44,362 – close to a 100% increase!

In the process, I think I discovered a correlation: Every time I added something to the base product the cost increased.

The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) and the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) published a Report on School District Mandates: Cost Drivers in Public Education (January 2013). It reads, in part,

 Any understanding of the rising costs of public education must include an appraisal of the current requirements that school districts must meet in order to comply with state laws and regulations.

It seems that with many of the state’s new laws and regulations for public education there is a correlation: an add to the “base product” increases the cost.

This blog is not a judgment on the quality of the state’s unfunded mandates. It is a statement that a state unfunded mandate may have a cost – a cost usually borne at the local level.

Why, at the state level, should one act surprised or indignant at the rise of the cost of public education, if the above correlation and other cost-drivers (see below) are known?

That surprise and indignation seem unfair.


State mandates on school districts are only one factor leading to the rising cost of education. The impact of inflation, espe- cially on staff salaries, is one of the single largest cost factors in school districts. Other cost drivers include the growing student population, which is estimated at more than 80,000 additional students annually; the growing population of economically disadvantaged students, which currently make up 56 percent of Texas public school students; and the increased costs of utilities, fuel, and insurance.

Report on School District Mandates – Cost Drivers in Public Education (2103)

About drjstewart

Christian, husband, father, educator, writer, and photographer.
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