Throwing money at a problem money can’t fix

Timberlane’s student population had a healthy bulge in 2007-2008 when kindergarten was introduced.  Since then it has been steadily and decidedly losing students.  Don’t think the district’s budget would shrink because of fewer tender minds.  No, instead, the district’s operating budget has markedly increased, making per pupil costs skyrocket as SAT scores slid.

                        2007/8        2013/14

Students      4,653              3,924        Enrollment:  -15.67%

Expended    $56.3 mil       $65 mil (budgeted)       +15.55%* 

Per pupil cost: +26.18%*  since 2008  (inflation adjusted)

Should the proposed budget for 2014-2015 pass as proposed,  per pupil cost would show a staggering 33.70% increase since 2008.

Are students, parents and taxpayers getting value from this lavish increase in budgets?  On the contrary.  SAT scores are abysmal.

I asked the NH Department of Education for Timberlane’s historical SAT scores.  They provided test results from 2000-2001 (with 2009-2010 and 2010-20011 missing).  Our district’s highest combined reading and math score was 1029 way back in 2004.  Since then it has been a downward slide.  2013’s combined score is a disappointing 993.  This is significantly higher than last year’s depressing 976, and with encouraging improvement in math, but still nothing to celebrate, though one hopes it is the beginning of an upward trend. The national average for SAT combined scores in 2013 was 1010.

Our district has been throwing money at an academic problem that is not solved with money, fancy software, state of the art student surveys, or a new mini-gym.  It is solved by teacher and administrator accountability and merit pay.

P.S. The SAU budget this year is up 10.75%.   The proposed school district budget is up 5.76% before the effect of warrant articles, one of which will be to approve an entirely new collective bargaining unit for 167 staff.

*If 2014 budget is completely expended

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Filed under Budget 2014-2015, Budget Committee, Sandown Issues, SAU 55 Issues

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