School districts have directed more operating dollars to teaching and to programs helping students, and reduced the percentage of operating spending on almost everything else. The total dollars available for operating costs are limited by the state and federal government. Capital expenditures for buildings and payments for school construction bonds, which are approved by local voters, have been increases more than operating costs.
According to data from the Kansas State Department of Education, in 2015 school districts spent 61.4 percent of operating funds on direct instruction (teachers, special education paraprofessionals, classroom aides, coaches and classroom materials), up from 56.7 percent 15 years ago.
Districts spent 5.4 percent of operating funds on student support programs (such as counselors, nurses, attendance officers, social workers and school psychologists); up from 5.1 percent in 2000, and 4.0 percent on teacher support (libraries, media centers and professional development); the same percent as in 2000.
Spending on school administration (principals and school office personnel) dropped from 6.2 percent to 5.5 percent. Central administration costs are 5.1 percent of operating costs, down from 5.4 percent.
Operations and maintenance costs, which include utilities, insurance, custodial services and security, make up 9.6 percent of operating expenditures, down from 11.1 percent. Transportation costs for students to and from school and activities is 4.3 percent, down from 5.4 percent. Non-instructional spending, which is mostly food service programs (breakfast and lunch) is 4.7 percent, down from 6.1 percent.
Operating expenditures dropped from 91.7 percent of total expenditures to 88.0 percent. This is primarily because local voters have approved school construction bonds at a faster rate than the Legislature has approved increases in general operating aid and local option budgets (which are limited by the state). Local boards and voters cannot shift funding from building and equipment funds to operating funds.
Follow-up: Some say only about half of student spending actually “gets to the classroom.”
That’s only true if you accept the idea that “instruction” is the only thing that matters “in the classroom.” However, student learning in the classroom would not be possible without the other areas of the budget - including buildings and operating the classroom, supervising and supporting teachers, and transporting, feeding and providing support services for students.