As folks in Jefferson County debate raising taxes for the Jefferson County Public School District (JCPS), I thought it might be useful to see how the district ranks for school spending among the 100 largest enrollment school districts in the nation. A recent federal report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has that data for the 2015-16 school term, and Table 1 below, created from that data, shows JCPS comes in at the 21st place with Current Expenditures per pupil of just under $12,000.
It’s worth noting that a number of school districts listed above JCPS in Table 1 don’t have a terribly good reputation for education quality despite high spending.
For example, Table 2 (Developed from the NAEP Data Explorer) shows a ranking of the districts that took part in the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress for Grade 4 Reading.
In Table 2, the scores shown in light blue in the “Cross-jurisdiction significant difference” (from JCPS) column show a number of districts including Chicago, Los Angeles, Fresno, Baltimore City and Milwaukee scored statistically significantly lower than JCPS but all appear above JCPS for funding as shown in Table 1.
This shows yet again, when it comes to education, spending more doesn’t necessarily get you more.
It might be interesting for taxpayers in the JCPS area to look at how the considerable amount of money the district gets now is actually being spent. Maybe some priority shifting in the budget is in order rather than trying to raise taxes in this time of huge fiscal uncertainty which we now face thanks to COVID-19.
In case you are wondering, here is the definition of “Current Expenditures” from the NCES report.
Current expenditures comprise expenditures for the day-to-day operation of schools and school districts for public elementary and secondary education, including expenditures for staff salaries and benefits, supplies, and purchased services. General administration expenditures and school administration expenditures are also included in current expenditures. Expenditures associated with repaying debts and capital outlays (e.g., purchases of land, school construction, and equipment) are excluded from current expenditures. Programs outside the scope of public prekindergarten through grade 12 education, such as community services and adult education are not included in current expenditures. Payments to private schools and payments to charter schools outside of the school district are also excluded from current expenditures.