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If you are a superintendent looking to find more money for your schools, you can report the number in a way that makes them look underfunded. If you are a state legislator looking to send less money to public schools, you can report the numbers in a way that makes them look overfunded. If you’re a taxpayer interested in how your tax dollars fund your local school, well, you’re out of luck.

Determining per pupil expenditure relies on a series of decision rules that vary. Should states report current expenditure or total expenditure (which includes capital outlays and debt services)? Is expenditure the total revenue collected and disbursed to the public schools, or the amount that the district actually spent?

Perhaps most importantly, the method you use to calculate costs affects the final total. To highlight the discrepancies that can exist, I compiled three different calculations of per pupil expenditures from five large, well-known school districts (based off data from the Census Bureau Report). As you can see from the right-most column, the per-pupil expenditure varies widely depending on how cost is calculated.

Mas, mesmo com discordâncias, parece-me que algo é claro: fica mal usar variáveis diferentes para fazer comparações.