My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A by-the-numbers comparison

Hampshire Gazette
By NICK GRABBEStaff Writer
Friday, March 12, 2010

Here are 10 reasons why Amherst's per-pupil spending is so much higher than in Northampton, according to school administrators:

1. Teacher salaries are higher. In Amherst, they average about $60,000, while in Northampton they are about $10,000 lower. But Amherst is a more expensive place to live, with an average single-family assessment of $334,300 and average annual tax bill of $5,666, compared to $303,000 and $4,000 in Northampton.

2. Old figures. The latest figures listing per-pupil spending, put out by the state, are for the fiscal year that ended last June. The Amherst schools eliminated the equivalent of more than 50 full-time positions for the current year, but that lower level of spending hasn't shown up in state figures yet.

3. Well-paid administrators. The Amherst superintendent makes $173,000 a year, compared to $113,568 in Northampton, and the Amherst high school principal makes $128,663, compared to $89,166 in Northampton. The Amherst elementary schools all have assistant principals; Northampton's don't. Amherst has special education administrators making $98,731, $98,095 and $95,767; Northampton has two making $87,524 and $78,518.

4. OUT-OF-DISTRICT SPENDING. Amherst's spending is higher than Northampton's for students who attend schools outside their districts, according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Web site. For example, Amherst is paying $320,760 for 24 students to attend Smith Vocational and $224,000 for 16 students at Franklin County Technical School this year. These numbers are significantly higher than last year's.

5. Health insurance. The per-pupil costs for insurance were $1,706 in Amherst and $1,045 in Northampton last year, according to the state Web site. For this year, Amherst found a way to limit increases in health insurance costs.

6. Transportation. The Amherst regional district paid $675 per pupil for busing students last year, while Northampton paid $317, according to state figures. Some of this can be attributed to the greater expense of sending buses to Leverett and Shutesbury, and Amherst is planning to save money on busing next year by having fewer stops.

7. Teacher-student ratio. Amherst has a higher one than Northampton, according to school administrators.

8. Operations and maintenance. Amherst spends $1,263 per pupil on the elementary level and $1,458 on the regional level, compared to Northampton's $1,072. This category includes custodians, heating and maintenance of buildings, utilities and technology maintenance.

9. Degree holders. Amherst, home to a state university and two colleges, has a high percentage of parents who have postsecondary and advanced degrees.

10. Other budget items. Amherst elementary schools and the middle and high school spend more per-pupil than Northampton on professional development ($294 and $352 vs. $199), administration ($626 and $652 vs. $494), instructional leadership ($1,134 and 1,288 vs. $814), and guidance, counseling and testing ($396 and $525 vs. $360).


Abbie said...

perhaps, I am misunderstanding something...but if it costs about ~16k to educate MS/HS student in Amherst and its costs ~320K to send 24 kids outside the district, my simple math tells me that this is actually a deal and only costs us ~13k/student. Is this reasoning correct?

Ed said...

Question: Why DO Amherst schools have Vice Principals when Hamp ones seem to function quite well without.

Question: Why are THREE SPED admin folk needed? Why isn't ONE enough? Maybe two - one for payroll/bookeeping/contracting and one for supervising PET/IEPs and instruction/accomidations. But THREE?

Question: those of us over the age of 40 or so can remember classrooms of 28-30 students with one teacher and NO paras. We learned, didn't we?

We have spent 30 years pouring money into K-12 and what, exactly has it gotten us? Kids that are less prepared for life, who have fewer basic skills, and who (frankly) lack the self-reliance of earlier generations.

Prop 2.5 was passed about 30 years ago with the intent of telling governments that they could "have this much and no more." And yet the schools have demanded more and more and more and more -- and received it.

To what end? To the end of an arrogant but unprincipled high school principal who is an affront to every bit of professional ethics that I was ever taught. So he is from "Jersey", well I am from Matinicus which is a tad less civil.

There is an air of entitlement amongst K-12 "professionals" that didn't exist 20-30 years ago, a kind of "we deserve it" mentality that is the only logical result of endless largess.

For this reason, I think that the override must fail. Vote no!

Tell the unprincipled principal that he works for us, not the other way around....

Anonymous said...

Supreme Kudos to the Daily Hampshire Gazette and specifically to Nick Grabbe for the work he has been producing over the past few weeks.

This is terrific stuff, and what we need in our community in order to think intelligently about it.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

Northamton has 2 SPED administrators and Amhest 3. Northampton just decided to add an additiona SPED administrator because they are out of compliance with state mandates and they need an additional administrator to keep up with all the work that needs to be done...and then they will be able to get back into compliance with the state.

As someone said in one of today's newspaper articles on the varied education topics - "You get what you pay for."

Nina Koch said...

Hi Abbie,

I think one issue is the difference between fixed costs and variable costs. If we have a certain amount of fixed costs distributed over a smaller number of students, then the average cost per student goes up.

When a kid goes to the voke school instead of ARHS and we pay out $14K or whatever it costs now, it's not like our expenses drop by $14K to make up for it. We don't really save any money at all, unless one teacher's worth of kids leaves the district. So it's not a deal for us if the kids go to a different school. It's money out of our pockets. I hope we don't lose a lot of kids if we drop elective programs, because it could effectively negate the intended savings of closing the program.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff by the Gazette, but what does it matter that houses cost more in Amherst than Northampton?

Many of our teachers live in Northampton, Deerfield, Hadley, etc. The cost of my house shouldn't have anything to do with what we pay teachers who live in less expensive towns that have lower taxes and pretty good schools.

Anonymous said...

The reason Amherst per pupil costs are higher -- we are paying more for everything! Isn't this clear from this article?