Geographic Variations in Public Schools' Costs
The desire to understand the patterns of variation in educational services across geographic regions of the United States has increased the need for meaningful and reliable measures of the patterns of educational cost differences. Measuring these patterns of variation, however, is not a simple undertaking. To account for these variations, it is necessary to adjust the actual values of expenditures that are commonly reported by public school systems in order to determine the real (or cost-adjusted) differences in educational services across geographic jurisdictions. What is needed is a geographic cost-of-education index to measure variations in the prices of school inputs (personnel and nonpersonnel items used in the provision of school services) across geographic locations in the United States.
Specifically, a geographical cost-of-education index (hereafter referred to as GCEI) would measure how much more or less it costs to provide the same quantities and qualities of school resources and services in different locations. The GCEI reflects that portion of the variation in educational spending that is due to factors beyond the control of local school decisionmakers — that is, variations in the cost of living and the attractiveness of the school districts and regions within which school personnel work and live. Such an index would be useful for comparing educational expenditures across states or local jurisdictions, and would provide important information to policy makers and educators who are increasingly interested in measuring the variations in the real (or cost-adjusted) level of investment in education across states.