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Budget Cuts, Budget Increases and the APS Budget?

For school watchdogs, Mike Antonucci's Education Intelligence Agency is a must read website, especially his weekly Communique. In the May 6, 2013 Communique, Mike provides the following background information:

"Devastating Budget Cuts Still Look Like Increases So Far. The National Center for Education Statistics issued its “First Look” at comprehensive school district revenues and expenditures for the 2009-10 school year. It’s a welcome report, though not exactly a “first look” since it uses U.S. Census Bureau figures available since last fall. (emphasis in the original)

"According to the authoritative National Bureau of Economic Research, America’s “Great Recession” began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Because of the vast number of agencies involved, it takes years to gather and report definitive public education revenue and spending data. So while we may eventually see figures that corroborate the tales of woe we hear from those quarters, that time has not yet arrived. Quite the contrary, in fact."

Antonucci also points out two especially significant findings from the NCES report, e.g.:

  • "Some states did experience significant spending cuts – Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah all had reductions of more than 5 percent. On the other hand, Illinois, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, West Virginia and the District of Columbia all increased spending by more than 5 percent."
  • "About 61.2 percent of those expenditures went towards employee salaries, and another 21.3 percent to employee benefits. That left about 17.5 percent for just about everything else – student transportation, school books and materials, energy costs, external services, and supplies."

Each year, he crunches the numbers for the nation's 13,500 school districts by state. He has now completed crunching those for Virginia's school districts.

So how do changes in Arlington Public School's enrollment, staffing, per-pupil spending, and changes in per-pupil spending compare with its Northern Virginia neighbors? Let's see (districts are listed in order of enrollment). All percentages represent changes from school year 2005-2006 to school year 2010-2011; dollar amounts are SY 2010-2011:

  • Fairfax County Public Schools: Change in Enrollment - 6.6%; Change in Number of K-12 Teachers - <-25.4%>; Per-pupil Spending - $12,499; Change in Per-pupil Spending - 5.0%; Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - $11,129; and Change in Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - 6.0%.
  • Prince William County Public Schools: Change in Enrollment - 15.9%; Change in Number of K-12 Teachers - <-12.8%>; Per-pupil Spending - $9,835; Change in Per-pupil Spending - 6.3%; Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - $8,442; and Change in Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - 4.2%.
  • Loudoun County Public Schools: Change in Enrollment - 33.5%; Change in Number of K-12 Teachers - <-6.9%>; Per-pupil Spending - $11,675; Change in Per-pupil Spending - 1.7%; Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - $10,204; and Change in Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - 2.5%.
  • Arlington County Public Schools: Change in Enrollment - 16.4%; Change in Number of K-12 Teachers - <-31.1%>; Per-pupil Spending - $16,375; Change in Per-pupil Spending - 0.2%; Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - $15,380; and Change in Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - <-1.5%>.
  • Alexandria City Public Schools: Change in Enrollment - 12.7%; Changed in Number of K-12 Teachers - <-25.4%>; Per-pupil Spending - $17,759; Changes in Per-pupil Spending - 10.5%; Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - $15,019; and Change in Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - 7.6%.
  • Falls Church City Public Schools: Change in Enrollment - 11.7%; Change in Number of K-12 Teachers - <-18.3%>; Per-pupil Spending - $16,100; Change in Per-pupil Spending - 0.2%; Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - $14,509; and Change in Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - 0.6%.
  • Virginia: Change in Enrollment - 3.1%; Change in Number of K-12 Teachers - <-1.1%>; Per-pupil Spending - $10,364; Change in Per-pupil Spending - 9.7%; Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - $8,867; and Change in Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - 9.2%.
  • United States: Change in Enrollment - <-0.2%; Change in Number of K-12 Teachers - <-0.3%>; Per-pupil Spending - $10,560; Change in Per-pupil Spending - 15.6%; Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - $8,649; and Change in Per-pupil Spending on Compensation - 16.0%.

Three APS numbers stan d out for this observer. The first was Arlington's 16.4% change in enrollment, higher even than in Prince William County. The second was APS's 31.1% drop in the number of K-12 teachers, the largest of the six NoVa school districts. Finally, APS's actual 1.5% drop in per-pupil spending for compensation, which was the only school district showing an actual decrease in per-pupil spending for compensation.

From the numbers alone in this report, it is difficult to make a cogent comment about APS. However, for the reasons stated in our May 17, 2012 Growls in response to the efficiency review performed by the the state of Virginia, we continue to believe Arlington County taxpayers bear an excess tax burden for the county's government schools.

UPDATE (8/5/13) I've corrected a couple numbers for the Arlington, Alexandria, and the U.S. I also made several clarifications in the last two paragraphs. My apologies.

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