A post on the Teaneck Today Facebook group (join here), references the recent record article on how much school districts in NJ spend per student.
The Record article quotes the amounts listed in the State’s Taxpayers’ Guide to Education Spending 2019. According to that report, we spend $27,670 per pupil.
But this is only part of the story.
Our expenses don’t go up or down based on the number of individual students, but they do flow with aggregates. Lose a few students one year and there’s likely very little change in expenses. Same with gaining a few. That’s why the independent report from the Board of Ed on the impacts of development don’t show more than a nominal increase based on new residents. They simply don’t increase any particular class size beyond the point where a new teacher would be necessary. Costs may be phrased in the “per pupil” equation, but they need to be contextualized to be properly understood.
Some of those commenting, have pointed out that not all students have the same “per pupil cost” and that there’s a mismatch in the number of kids attending public vs. private schools. This is accurate, but without more information, it’s not very helpful.
So let’s find a place to start….
Here are our numbers:
How many students do we have?
To determine the number of students, we need only look at page 2 of the CAFR:
We have 3,953 students enrolled across our district for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
I used 2016-17 as opposed to the 2017-18 CAFT number of 3,971 so this can be compared to the special education report that covers the same time period. This number includes charter school students that reside in town, but excludes enrollments for in-district preschool and non-public school students.
How many students are in general vs special education instruction?
This number can be found in the Special Education report on page 26 (Table 4):
We have 3,611 students in the district, of which 1.035 are classified as having a disability.
How much do we spend on general and special education instruction?
For this info, we need to look at page 22 of the CAFR:
What is the per pupil cost for instruction?
If we take the cost for Regular Instruction ($49,686,728) and divide by the total enrollment, less those classified as special education (2,576), we get a spend per pupil of $19,288.33
If we take the cost for Special Education Instruction ($25,491,773) and divide by the total classified as special education, we get a spend per pupil of $24,629.73
While this still doesn’t tell the entire story, it says a bit more than the records simple use of $27,670.
Clearly, this only deals with the costs of instruction, which, while a large share of the total budget, is not the complete picture. There are capital and fixed costs for everything from repairs, to heat, to…. you name it. The BOE covers a lot of spending. But instruction is a good place to start a discussion on comparative spending.
How do other towns compare?
That’s a post for another day. If you have the ability and want to show your work, I’d be happy to post your information.