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Trying to understand education spending, start with some spreadsheets

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03/29/2007

 By Lisa Loomis

With Town Meeting over and school budgets approved, a look at how Valley schools compare to other schools in the state in terms of spending is confusing rather than illuminating.

The Vermont Legislature is working on 'reforming' how education funding in structured in the state in an effort to curb education costs which have risen considerably since 2000. In 2007, estimated state spending on education will equal $1.02 billion with 98,605 students in the state.

Currently, towns can spend up to 125 percent of the state's equalized per pupil spending without paying an extra percentage of that money to the state. The current education spending reform under consideration by the Vermont Legislature would reduce the 125 percent number to 123 percent in an effort to curb education spending.

Washington West Supervisory Union business manager John Pike provided additional data from Washington West for the 2006 year, compared to projected 2008 spending in light of the proposed funding reform legislation.

"All of the schools in our district are well below the threshold amount and should not have a problem with the proposed reduction in the spending threshold percentage from 125 percent to 123 percent," Pike said.

His data showed the spending threshold for 2008 (based on 2006 average state spending) compared to Washington West 2008 equalized spending per pupil (excluding eligible construction costs).

That data shows Vermont equalized per pupil education costs of $10,075 as 100 percent and per pupil spending of $12,594 as 125 percent of that state average. Projections for local towns for 2008 show equalized per pupil spending as follows:

Town        $ per pupil        less construction    below penalty threshold by $
Duxbury    $10,822        $9,955            $2,639
Fayston           $12,226        $11,724        $870
Moretown     $12,059        $11,471        $1,122
Waitsfield    $11,285        $10,901        $1,692
Warren        $10,950        $10,685        $1,909
Waterbury     $10,621        $9,877             $2,717



The Vermont Department of Education provides an Excel spreadsheet which details per pupil spending per equalized student based on the type of school for 2006. School types include names such as 'no schools, tuition all students,' and 'K-12 interstate district,', or 'unified union district,' 'operate K-12 public,' or 'operate elementary school, union high school,' etc.

Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston and Moretown fall into that last category; they each operate their own elementary school and their students attend a union high school. Waterbury and Duxbury students attend a union primary and union high school.

According to the Vermont Department of Education data, in 2006, the education spending per equalized pupil in Vermont was $9,582, although the budgeted expenditures per equalized pupil in the state equaled $11,685 per pupil. The lower number represents budgeted expenditures minus local revenues divided by the number of equalized pupils.

First, some Valley numbers from the Department of Education spreadsheet. In 2006, Moretown (considered by the state to be a medium school of 100 to 500 students) had per equalized pupil spending of $11,161.

Fayston (also considered a medium school) had per equalized pupil spending of $10,943. Warren, a medium school, was at $9,975. Waitsfield, a large school with 500 to 1,000 students, spent $9,255 per equalized pupil.

In Duxbury (considered a medium school) the per equalized pupil spending was $9,779 and in Waterbury (considered a large school with 500 to 1,000 students) the figure was $9,255.

Highest to lowest, those figures are Moretown, $11,161; Fayston, $10,943; Waitsfield, $9,839; Duxbury, $9,779; Warren, $9,975; Waterbury, $9,255. The state average is $9,582.

The range for towns that operate their own elementary schools and send students to a union high school ranges from $13,325 for Dummerston (a medium school) to $7,608 for Barre City, a very large school of more than 1,000 pupils. (The projected 'grant' from the state for each pupil in 2007 is $7,330.)

In 2003, total education spending in Vermont was $1,114,073,458; in 2004 it was $1,207,761,844; and in 2005 it was $1,261,842,306.

Contact Lisa Loomis at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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