Friday, November 26, 2010

Thinking about cost per pupil

Stretching the School Dollar is a 2010 volume that offers a set of recent proposals on "how schools and districts can save money while serving students best." One intriguing idea, from Marguerite Roza, offers a method rather an answer: she suggests analyzing districts, schools, programs, courses, and even individual sports on a per-unit or per-pupil basis. She gives many examples of how that approach helps everyone make comparisons and think more clearly about choices.

It's a convincing argument, and I'm going to try to apply it in blogging.  As a student count, I'll generally use the average daily attendance figure the Department uses for SEEK funding--though I'm open to reader arguments for using a different figure.

State K-12 funding for 2010-11, as budgeted in the spring 2010 special session, works out to per-pupil funding like this:
  • $3,763 for SEEK funding districts can use for overall schooling costs.
  • $2,011 for health insurance, life insurance, and retirement benefits for teachers and other school and district staff.
  • $371 for transportation.
  • $353 for new and renovated facilities.
  • $186 for categorical programs to provide targeted services to K-12 students: textbooks, gifted services, extended school services, family resource centers, and the like.
  • $89 for specialized schools, including the School for the Blind, the School for the Deaf, and vocational schools.
  • $37 for work that supports teaching quality, including district professional development, centers, and other programs and grants.
  • $27 for state assessments and interventions in schools with the weakest results.
  • $13 for the Education Professional Standards Board.
  • $8 for student support programs targeted for use in specific districts and regions.
  • $13 for other programs not listed above.
There's another $103 per pupil in the budget section for the Department of Education that I haven't fully figured out.  There are line items for KDE and technology and then there's an amount that isn't itemized that I'm sure includes costs of both KDE operations and technology and network expenses.

 As noted, that's a downpayment, but it does already give me a sense I didn't have before of how facilities and transportation now dwarf the funding for categorical programs to provide other services.

Feel free to download my state funding calculations and send me questions and improvement ideas, and stay tuned as I work some more on figuring out what can be learned from using this approach regularly.


  1. Susan,

    How can you be sure of any fiscal matters while the MUNIS financial accounting system remains unrepaired?

    The problem was examined by LRC Research Report 338 and the report found many instances of cost accounting errors.

    Some costs were even being accounted to codes that were obsolete.

    Budget money does get reprogrammed, and it is sometimes hard to track that, hence the need for MUNIS accuracy.

    We need to fix MUNIS, first.

  2. As noted in the post, the numbers above are funding figures, reflecting what the General Assembly voted to authorize. They do not depend on the MUNIS accounting system at all.


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