Guest Contribution by Arthur Green*
The Cost Per Pupil (CPP) report for the 2017/18 school year has been posted by the NH Department of Education.
Timberlane’s cost per pupil is up a very substantial $500 from the prior year at a flubbery $17,280 for every student from kindergarten to 12th grade. You might not think this so bad until you know better districts do more with much less.
Let’s see how Timberlane compares to the other 9 NH districts with a similar student population, program structure, and number of schools.
Timberlane is highest, 8.9% above the state average. The comparable districts are 7.4% below state average. Timberlane’s CPP is more than $2,500 higher than the average of comparable school districts.
A few weeks ago, I commented on the spring 2018 SAT results here. Three of Timberlane’s peer districts achieved higher SATs than Timberlane in both Math and ELA (English Language Arts), those being Bedford, Londonderry and Salem. If we look at the next-highest CPP amongst those 3, we see that Londonderry spent $16,177 per pupil to achieve better academic results than Timberlane – $1,100 less. Apply that to a student population of 3,500, and it shows an opportunity to save over $3.5 million, with no sacrifice to educational outcomes.
Finally, let’s have a quick look at rising spending per pupil over the past 5 years:
Spending per pupil increased across the state by 13% over the past 5 years, which seems to me quite substantial during non-inflationary times, and quite at variance with the perennial complaints from some quarters that education is systematically underfunded.
The spending in the comparable districts has increased by a similar 13%.
Timberlane stands out with an increase of 19% over the period. If Timberlane’s spending had increased by only the same percentage as its 9 peer districts, the total budget would be lower by $2.7 million. Time to do some fat shaming at Timberlane. Management needs to be put on a diet by elected officials.
Note: CPP as defined by the state excludes certain items, such as transportation and tuition to outside institutions, in order to arrive at a number which is meant to be comparable across districts. Timberlane’s budget per pupil in 2018 was $20,000, which is a clearer measure of the overall taxpayer burden. But the state CPP is a convenient figure for comparison across different districts.
*All fat references added by Donna Green.