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).
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.