And the Best Deal in Education Is…. Poquoson!

Poquoson taxpayers rejoice. And taxpayers in Lexington, York County, Henrico County and Scott County, you can go ahead and rejoice, too.

In its new study, “No Guarantees: Rating the Cost Efficiency of Virginia’s School Districts,” the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute (CPLPI) rates Virginia school districts by how much educational bang they deliver for the buck. Those five municipalities topped the list as “high achievement” school districts providing education at the lowest cost.

The worst deals in education — the lowest achieving school districts at the highest cost — include the cities of Petersburg, Charlottesville, Roanoke and Martinsville, as well as a number of less populous counties in Southside and Southwest Virginia.

Compare school districts of similar wealth and percentage of disadvantaged students, CPLPI argues, and you still get widely varying results. Take, for example, Poquoson (in Hampton Roads) and Falls Church (in Northern Virginia), which are of similar size, have similar student enrollments and similar percentages of economically disadvantaged student populations (7.6 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively). Both districts produce high achievement: Poquoson and Falls Church rank second and third, respectively, in Goal-Attainment Average in the state. However:

The two cities were not comparable in terms of Cost-Benefit Value. … Poquoson’s CBV of $77.68 is the best in the state, while Falls Church [after adjusting for higher teacher salaries in Northern Virginia] had a CBV of $136.28, the fifteenth worst in the state.

Falls Church is an affluent area boasting per capita personal income significantly higher than Poquoson, which is just shy of the state average. Yet Poquoson residents were served more cost-efficiently than their wealthier neighbors to the north, who “paid” an adjusted unit price 75 percent higher for similar student achievement results.

Bacon’s bottom line: The public education lobby has successfully defined the “solution” to improving the educational outcomes of Virginia’s youth as giving more money to public schools. I call it the “mo’ money” syndrome. The educrats have obfuscated the differences in managerial performance by blaming disparite outcomes on the differing socio-economic characteristics of school district populations. But the CBLPI study shows that some school systems do a better job than others.

Before dumping billions of dollars more into Virginia’s school districts — usually on the pretext that the worst-performing districts desperately need help — taxpayers should demand more accountability from school boards and administrations. Taxpayers cannot afford to continue writing blank checks. And students, who are preparing to enter a globally competitive economy, cannot afford a sub-par education.
(Photo cutline: Graduation ceremony at Poquoson High School. Photo credit:

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3 responses to “And the Best Deal in Education Is…. Poquoson!”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Good example of an independent entity taking a hard look at a situation using measurable quantities.

    Now, how do we transfer what Poquoson has been able to do to other schools?


  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    One error: Poquoson’s median income is much higher than the Virginia average.

    I invested 3 kids in Poquoson public schools. My wife and I participated in supporting our kids.

    I was an OM (Odyssey of the Mind) coach and, you’ll laugh, a member of the Multi-Cultural sub-committee of the Long Range Planning committee a few years back.

    The big difference in Poquoson schools is parent involvement. That isn’t about us, but the other parents. PTO meetings for the primary and elementary schools are SRO.

    Great volunteer parent program as reading assistants, etc.

    Some great teachers who like being in a school environment where chewing gum, not carrying weapons, is the big deal in class.

    The demographics of parents married to each other, race, etc. are different than other local communities, but I’ll leave that for others to argue that it matters.

    My wife is a counselor in nearby York County. Her elementary school passed the SOLs several years before Poquoson (her school passed year one and every year since) with different demographics than Poquoson.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    “The educrats have obfuscated the differences in managerial performance by blaming disparite outcomes on the differing socio-economic characteristics of school district populations.”


    Anyway….does the report have any cross-tabs on taxpayers “bang for the buck” when it comes to all the ESL students we must educate? Local educrats in my locality often blame that group for bringing down test scores, averages, etc.

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