Monday, October 17, 2016

Key Facts: How much does Kansas provide per pupil for K-12 education?

According to the Kansas State Department of Education website, Kansas school districts spent $13,124 per “full-time equivalent” pupil in school year 2014-15. This number includes all state and federal funds, all local revenues, all retirement costs and all student fee revenue, including student meals, books and other costs. This is the state average; individual districts may be higher or lower.

However, that number counts all kindergartners as half-time students, even though most kindergartners attend full-time. It also does not count more than 5,000 students in preschool programs funded by school districts. Using headcount enrollment, which counts all of these students, per pupil spending drops to $12,138.

If looking only at state aid (which would not include federal funding, local property tax revenue or income from student fees, but does DOES include KPERS retirement contributions), per pupil spending was $8,644 - using the FTE enrollment that does not count all day kindergarten students and district paid pre-schoolers. If looking only at state and local operating funds (district general fund, local option budget and special education aid, but NOT KPERS, building and equipment costs, federal programs, meals and student fees), per pupil spending is $8,346.

Follow-up: Some report lower numbers for Kansas spending per pupil. Why the difference?

As noted above, some comparisons use only state funding, or state and federal funding but not local revenues. Some may only use funding for operational costs and exclude spending on buildings and debt service. Some may exclude state contributions for the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System because these dollars cannot be used for school operations. Finally, some comparisons use only the base state aid per pupil amount from previous funding system, which was $3,852.

As a result, the “correct” answer about spending per pupil depends on what you really want to know, and why. For example, suppose an individual is seeking a loan and is asked “what is your annual income?” The individual will usually give their “take home pay.” That answer would probably not include fringe benefits and deductions for insurance and contributions for retirement, whether paid by the employee or the employer; and it certainly wouldn’t include the employer’s share of payroll for things like social security and unemployment. However, it’s the “right” answer for a lender who wants to know how much income the individual really has available to repay a loan, even though the employer is actually “spending” more than the employee takes home from a paycheck.

Likewise, in a local school district budget, much of the revenue is not available for regular educational operating costs, even if is being spent on other important costs.

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