Several days ago I blogged about some education finance issues dealing with the relatively low amount of federal funding for education in each state versus the requirement to follow federal mandates to receive that money. Today I offer another financial examination, this time looking at how Kentucky’s largest school district stacks up in the latest available data for its scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Grade 8 Mathematics Assessment in 2013 versus the total revenue per pupil for each district participating in that NAEP.
Data for this table come from the NAEP Data Explorer web tool and a finance publication from the National Center for Education Statistics, “Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2012–13 (Fiscal Year 2013), First Look.”
I sorted the table by each school district’s NAEP scores for white students, listed in the column with pink shading. Notice that the Jefferson County School District ranks near the very bottom for its scores for white students (as I have explained many times before, you cannot get valid comparison performance information from tests involving Kentucky by only looking at overall student average scores. You must break it out by race).
I checked for the sampling errors in the NAEP scores, and all the listed districts from Los Angeles and above in the table scored statistically significantly higher than Jefferson County did for white Grade 8 NAEP Math in 2013. Philadelphia, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Fresno actually scored in a statistical tie with Jefferson County once the sampling errors in these scores are considered.
Education financing looks different. While Jefferson County ranks in 16th place for test scores, it places 9 out of 18 for its education revenue in 2013. Jefferson County’s per pupil revenue in federal Fiscal Year 2013 (which began in October 2012, thus aligning fairly well with the 2012-13 school term when the NAEP was given) ranks in the middle of the pack among districts that had data for both NAEP and funding for this school year.
In fact, the Jefferson County Public School District’s per pupil education revenue of $12,377 ranks at number 23 among the 100 largest enrollment school districts in the United States. The average revenue per pupil across those 100 districts is over $1,300 lower at $11,014.
Summing up, when the data in the table is considered, Jefferson County is getting below average bang for the buck for its white students.
By the way, the NAEP Data Explorer also shows that in 2013 Jefferson County had a much larger proportion of whites than any other district in the listing. Jefferson County was 52 percent white while the next closest district, Hillsborough, Florida, was only 38 percent white. A number of the other districts, such as Atlanta, Chicago and Houston, have 10 percent or less white enrollment. A lot of education researchers would say that should make the education challenges easier for Jefferson County. If so, it isn’t showing in the results.
So, the data in the table is particularly ominous. The money is there for Jefferson County – the performance……..well.