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Money doesn't always do the talking, two new studies that examined public and private school spending have found.

The average per-pupil cost for Catholic elementary school students is $2,044, far below the $5,352 average for public elementary school students, a report by the National Catholic Educational Association says.

"Too often, those promoting educational reform imply student performance is dollar driven," said Robert Kealey, an executive director of the Washington-based group. "This study shows that Catholic schools succeed when spending less than half the amount allotted to government-run schools."

Copies of the report, "Balance Sheet for Catholic Elementary Schools: 1993 Income and Expenses," are available for $11.25 each, prepaid, from the N.C.E.A., Publications Department, Suite 100, 1077 30th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007-3852.

A Milwaukee research company that compared public and private school spending found similar results, and attributed nearly half of the disparity to additional benefits and higher salaries paid to public school employees.

The report by Public Policy Forum examined school districts and private schools in the Milwaukee area. It found that the salary and benefits for each public school employee averaged $55,654, compared with $28,941 for private school staff.

But the 20-page report cautioned that in discussions involving school choice and the expansion of private schools, policymakers should keep in mind that "there may be a limited pool of teachers who are willing to work for half the pay of (teachers in) public schools."

Public schools also tend to offer more programs and employ more special-subject and support staff, and spend more on non-educational staff, the study says.

Copies of "Public and Private School Costs: A Local Analysis" are available for $10 each by calling Public Policy Forum at (414) 276-8240.

Catholic school students, parents, teachers, and principals will parade through the halls of Congress this week as "ambassadors" for Catholic leaders. The 100 representatives from four states and the nation's capital will urge support for Catholic schools and school-choice initiatives.

The Feb. 1 event will mark National Appreciation Day for Catholic Schools. It falls in the middle of Catholic Schools Week, sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association and the United States Catholic Conference.

--Laura Miller

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