Thursday, May 26, 2011

How much money per student do schools need?

An article this morning from the associated press highlights school budget cuts in a few states including Texas, California, and Florida.

The Florida blurb caught my eye because it provides some actual numbers, which I used to do a back of the envelope calculation about school spending. The article says that the Florida Legislature has approved a budged that will cut school spending by about $540, or 7.9%, per student. Using these numbers I calculate that the pre-cut spending per student is $6,835 and that the after cut will be $6,295. Is this not enough money per student to provide an effective education?

I am not sure how much it costs to run a school, but I can come up with some fairly realistic numbers, at least in my mind, that make $6,235 per student seem like plenty of money. Lets assume a class size of 20 students in a 100 classroom school for a total student body of 2000, which was about the size of my public high school. Using the $6295, each classroom would have a $125,900 budget/year. I put $65,000 of that towards the teachers salary (which I believe is on the high end), and then another $17,000 for teacher benefits, for a total compensation of $82,000. This leaves me with $43,900.

The building has to be paid for, so lets say each teacher "rents" their classroom for $2,000 per month, which includes all utilities and overhead (including salaries for a principal, vice principal, and some support staff) for the building. With 100 classrooms this would come to $2.4 million per year. Again, I am not sure if that is enough, but it seems like a school district should be able to come up with a 100 classroom school for $2.4 million per year.

Subtracting the building costs, there is now $19,900 left. The teaches would be given a supply/field trip allowance of $250/student, which amounts to $5000. The remaining $14,900 could be used to help support athletic programs, computer labs, additional supplies, or other miscellaneous costs that I have not accounted for.

None of these numbers seem completely outrageous to me. And if I am off a little bit, I have left $1.49 million unaccounted for to correct for that. So it appears to me that a school district should be able to provide a pretty good education with well compensated teachers and reasonably sized classrooms for $6,235 per student.

So why don't they?

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