When Gov. Chris Christie discusses his education reform agenda, he talks about Newark’s public schools.
In two national speeches on education this year and in a live interview on Facebook on Monday, Christie pushed his proposals for education reform after citing statistics about Newark.
"If you look at Newark as an example, for the kids who two months ago entered the ninth grade, in four years 23 percent of them will graduate with a high school diploma and we spend $100,000 on their education in those four years, more than is spent on any other set of students in the United States," Christie said in an interview at Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. "So what's that tell you? It tells you the model is broken. We have to fix the way we are teaching these children."
PolitiFact New Jersey previously checked a similar claim by Christie on Newark’s graduation rate and deemed it False. We’ll review that ruling, then tackle Christie’s claims about per-pupil costs.
There are several ways to calculate graduation rates and no solid consensus on whether one method is more credible than any other.
The graduation rate Christie references comes from a study by Global Education Advisors, a private consulting firm incorporated by Christopher Cerf before he became New Jersey’s acting state education commissioner.
A presentation based on the study’s findings said 22 percent of ninth graders in Newark graduate in four years by passing the High School Proficiency Assessment.
But students can graduate through alternate routes, without taking that exam.
Newark’s graduation rate for all students who graduate in four years is 55 percent.
By not specifying who is included in the graduation rate he cites, Christie omits an entire group of students recognized by the state as having graduated.
Now, let’s look at the rest of Christie’s claim.
Per-pupil expenditures vary, depending on what’s included in calculating the total and other factors. There’s also no broad consensus on whether one measure is more accurate than any other.
The state Education Department developed a new method to calculate per-pupil costs in fiscal year 2011 to account for transportation costs, debt payments and other factors. The new calculation showed Newark spent $22,992 per student for the 2009-2010 school year, or $91,968 for four years.
Our analysis of state data found several other districts in New Jersey that exceed Newark’s per-pupil spending.
By the new state measurement, Camden spent $23,770 per student; Atlantic City, $24,142; and Asbury Park, $29,819.
We also analyzed school district data from the U.S. Census Bureau and National Center for Education Statistics and found other districts in the United States that spend more than Newark per student. But it’s worth noting that among districts with larger student enrollment, Newark ranks near or at the top in per-pupil spending, depending on the data set.
A state Education Department spokesman, citing statistics that put New Jersey at the top nationally in per-pupil spending, said in an e-mail that Christie’s remarks "were based on the fact that NJ has the highest spending in the country, and Newark far exceeds even NJ’s average."
Still, Christie said more is spent on students in Newark than on "any other set of students in the United States" and that’s incorrect.
Christie claimed that 23 percent of ninth graders in Newark will graduate in four years, costing $100,000 per student, more than is spent on any other set of students in the country.
Christie’s graduation statistic only includes students who graduate after passing a particular state standardized test and omits a group of students who also graduate in four years through alternate routes.
A state measure that includes debt payments and other factors shows Newark spent $22,992 per pupil in the 2009-2010 school year, or $91,968 for four years. But that’s not the highest per-pupil cost in the country.
Overall, we rate Christie’s statement Mostly False.
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