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How do districts and charters compare in their costs per student?

How do school districts and charter schools compare in their costs per student? So far, we’ve covered the charter school tuition calculation and overall school district expenditures for charter school tuition. Today, we’re going to take a look at the differences in school district and charter school expenditures on a per student basis. In many areas, school district and charter school expenditures are similar; in other areas, however, they are different. To provide a true apples to apples comparison of expenditures, we’ve used 2015-16 data to be able to match up all relevant data elements, and we’ve removed pension-related costs from both school district and charter school expenditures, as well as charter school tuition costs paid by school districts. This

Regular Education Instructional Spending per Student is a measure of spending on non-special education programs by enrollment. This incorporates expenditures for regular education instructional programs (function 1100) and instructional support staff services expenditures (function 2200). To make sure we’re doing an apples to apples comparison on classroom spending on students between school districts and charter schools, we’ve excluded pension costs associated with regular instruction (function 1100 object 230) for both school districts and charter schools, and we’ve excluded charter school tuition for regular education instruction from school district expenditures (function 1100 object 562). Enrollment for each school district and charter school equals the total number of enrolled students for the 2015-16 school year (we used 2015-16 data because it is the most recent year of data for all the elements we are examining).

The average regular education instructional spending per student was basically the same between school districts and charter schools. It was $6,021 per student for all school districts in 2015-16, while the average for all charter schools was $5,710 per student.

Student Support Service Spending per Student is a measure of spending on student support services, such as counseling, psychological services, social work and speech pathology services. This incorporates counseling services expenditures (function 2120), psychological services expenditures (function 2140), speech pathology services expenditures (function 2150) and social work services expenditures (function 2160). To ensure an apples to apples comparison of classroom spending on students, we’ve excluded pension costs related to support services for school districts and charter schools (functions 2120, 2140, 2150, 2160 - object 230). Enrollment for each school district and charter school equals the total number of enrolled students in the LEA for the 2015-16 school year (again, we used 2015-16 data because it is the most recent year of data for all the elements we are looking at).

While the range varies, on average, student support service spending per student was about the same for school districts and charter schools. In 2015-16, the average for all school districts spent on student support services was $387 per student and the average for all charter schools was $347 per student.

Administrative Spending per Student is a measure of spending on administration by enrollment. This incorporates administration expenditures (function 2300). As above, we’ve excluded pension costs related to administrative expenditures for both school districts and charter schools. The enrollment for each school district and charter school equals the total number of enrolled students in the LEA for the 2015-16 school year.

School districts and charter schools spend significantly different amounts per student on administration. While the average school district spent $900 per student on administration, charter schools averaged $1,852 per student. Comparing total administrative costs to total expenditures, charter school administrative costs represented 13.2% of total charter school spending, while school district administrative costs represented 5.39% of total school district spending.

Click on the image link below to view our interactive map illustrating the regular education instructional spending per student, student support services spending per student and administrative costs per student for each school district and charter school for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Additionally, the map illustrates the regular education charter tuition rate for each school district and the average regular education charter tuition rate received by each charter school. You can filter by school district to view both the school district data and the data of the charter schools that resident students attended during the 2015-16 school year. You can also filter by charter school to view the charter school and each resident school district where students enrolled the charter school reside during the 2015-16 school year.
 
Special Education Instructional Spending per Student is a measure of spending on special education instructional programs by special education enrollment. This incorporates special education instructional program expenditures (function 1200), plus the regular education instructional spend per student calculated above. Again, to compare apples to apples between school districts and charter schools, we excluded special instruction pension costs (function 1200 object 230) for school districts and charter schools and charter tuition costs paid for special education instruction (function 1200 object 562) from school district expenditures. Enrollment for each school district and charter school equals the total number of enrolled special education students in the LEA for the 2015-16 school year.
 
There was a difference in the average special education instructional cost per student between school districts and charter schools. The average special education instructional cost per student for all school districts in 2015-16 was $17,906 per student, while the average for all charter schools was $14,089 per student. While many charter schools enroll special education students, the vast majority of the high need/high cost special education students (reported as Category 2 and Category 3 students under Act 16—students whose special education services cost in excess of about $25,000 per year) are enrolled in school district programs.
 
In 2015-16, 96% of all high cost special education students (28,128 students) were enrolled in school districts, while 4% of all high-cost special education students (1,214 students) were enrolled in charter schools.

Click on the image link below to view our interactive map illustrating for each school district and charter school, special education instructional spending per student, the number of enrolled special education students in Category 2 and 3 under Act 16, the percentage of high need-high cost special education students. Additionally, the map illustrates the special education charter tuition rate for each school district and the average special education charter tuition rate received by each charter school. You can filter by school district to view the school district and each charter school for which resident students attended during the 2015-16 school year. You can also filter by charter school to view the charter school and each resident school district where students enrolled the charter school reside during the 2015-16 school year.