Monday, April 18, 2016

NPR Story on School Funding

Seems this topic is all the rage.  This story is a three-parter with the other part coming next week.  I haven't had time to read it thoroughly but it has a very good interactive map that shows you who spends what. 
We began with the question: "How do we pay for our schools?"  From a leaky ceiling in rural Alabama to a four-day school week in Arizona. From $9,794 to $28,639.

Next week, we'll wade into the debate over the difference money can make in a classroom. And yes, it's a debate.
National average for school spending - $11,841
Seattle: $10,610
Bellevue: $9,192
Issaquah: $8,096
Highline: $9684
Spokane: $11,610

The center of the state and the far NW of the state spend a lot more. 


Charlie Mas said...

I really, really hate it when people report "average cost per student". It's a nearly meaningless data point.

Imagine two districts. Let's say that they each provide similar funding for typical students, for FRL students, for ELL students, and for students with disabilities depending on the nature and severity of the disability. The difference in their average cost per student will be driven mostly by the demographics of their student population. Urban, suburban, and rural districts will have different mixes. So if one of the districts is an urban district with a significant number of students who require additional funding that district will have a higher average cost per student - even if its budgeting for each type of student is identical or even less than a suburban district. Rural districts have their own challenges - lots of poverty, lots of English Language Learners, and high transportation costs. But they can often pay lower salaries.

The bulk of a school district's expenses are salary and an urban district is likely to pay higher salaries because cities have higher costs of living.

I would really much rather that people didn't even mention average spending per student since it is a practically meaningless data point.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, so then how do we compare? What data should we use instead?

Serious question

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie is right, of course; it truly depends on the type/location/size of the district. Looking at the interactive map, you can see how isolated places in Alaska have a huge per pupil spending cost (and apparently the oil revenues are so down, they are likely to close those schools.)

But one thing I concur with ed reformers on is WHERE the money is spent in a district. What is interesting to me is that ed reformers can almost never answer that question directly. "More in the classroom, less in administration." Well, sure, but what would you spend in the classroom vs adm? Because while I want more in the classroom, we have been put in a bind where you have to have technology in the classroom and that costs a lot in capital dollars for infrastructure plus buying of computers.

Anonymous said...

And the ed reformers also like to say that charter school give more bang for the buck. Reality is more taxpayer dollars are spent on administration in charter schools than in the classroom.


Anonymous said...

How about spend some on curricular materials? I'm tired of having to go about and buy a new book every time my middle schooler's LA teacher assigns a new novel. Shouldn't the schools have copies for the kids? And what about families who can't afford to buy their own books?


Jon said...

Maybe $10,610 per student per school is what's allocated, but that's not what makes it down to the school. Washington Middle School, for example, says it only gets $6,129 per student per year.

$10k is low enough, but $6k is completely crazy. Meanwhile, private schools spend $30k+ per student, because that's what's required to give kids a decent education.

Stuart Jenner said...

Private schools are a black box. They don't have to publish their finances. But a sticker price in some cases may be adjusted down on average to help with scholarships. But also endowments can bump up the available money.

What's striking though is the differences within King County. I am very surprised that Bellevue is lower than Highline for example. Where does the money go? It is impossible to tell. Oh, we can see that a certain amount goes to bus, to teachers, to admin, but really where's the time go? Yes costs will be higher if you have a smaller class size because of ELL, or special ed, but what are the differences between districts in those areas? Again, it is really hard to tell. But these are what set up the dollar averages that Charlie mentions are key.

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of having to go about and buy a new book every time my middle schooler's LA teacher assigns a new novel.

Perhaps be grateful your child's teacher assigns some novels...but, yes, you'd think some core texts would be part of the school and classroom libraries. Some teachers have resorted to students picking their own reading (it's on the student to supply the books - purchased or from the public library) and doing short stories in class (which can be photocopied and reused). It's a pretty sad state of affairs.

-seen it