National Public Radio is starting a series on school funding across the US, and the local affiliate station in Louisville, WFPL, just ran an article titled “Louisville Is Behind The Curve In Public School Funding,” which draws some data from the nationwide series.
But, is Louisville (actually the Jefferson County Public School District [JCPS]) really behind? Is it even spending only $10 more per student than the Kentucky-wide average?
When I am looking at funding across states, as NPR is doing, the first source I go to is the US Census Bureau’s Public Education Finances series. Census issues these reports annually, and the latest one, Public Education Finances: 2013, just happens to cover the spending year mentioned in the WFPL article – the 2013 Fiscal Year, which is essentially the 2012-13 school year. This table shows the per pupil total expenditure figures I calculated from the expenditure and enrollment figures found in the Census’ document.
As you can see, Jefferson County gets considerably more money per student than Kentucky schools statewide receive. Jefferson County even gets more per pupil than the nationwide average.
Now, NPR says it has adjusted its funding figures by regional cost of living factors. That might lower the Jefferson County spending a bit in relation to the statewide and national figures. So far, however, I have not found the cost of living adjustments used, so I don’t know if they are reasonable or not. NPR didn’t link to these adjustments. Can the cost of living in Louisville really be enough to offset a difference of over $1,590 in spending between JCPS and Kentucky schools statewide?
This gets even more interesting.
The Kentucky Department of Education also shows school funding data in the Kentucky School Report Cards. I accessed the Jefferson County school report card for 2014-15, which lists finance data for 2012-13 in the “Finance” – “Revenue and Expenditures” section. Per the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), in that year the total expenditures per pupil in Jefferson County amounted to $14,877 while statewide they were $12,874.”
Those figures are considerably larger than what the Census Bureau reports, for reasons I currently am still researching.
Never the less, whether we talk Census or KDE data, spending in Jefferson County is a lot higher than across Kentucky. Could the cost of living differences really be large enough to offset that? I wonder.