Scarborough Schools per Pupil Cost Explained

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Please read Annalee Rosenblatt’s letter to the editor providing information on the often quoted “per pupil costs”.

The information provided by the School Board on per pupil costs continually makes Scarborough look under funded and may be somewhat deceptive. We do not claim it is inaccurate, but meant to deflect and confuse the taxpayers of Scarborough.  We decided to take a closer look at the per pupil cost statistic to find out what it really means.   We started by meeting with Sawin Millet, former Commissioner of Education, Executive Director of Maine School Management Association and former Commissioner of Finance for the State of Maine, a person recognized far and wide for his expertise, to help us better understand this concept. It is complex.  As a result of that meeting and a follow up question to Mr. Millett, we were referred to Susan Beaudoin, Director of School Finance and Operations for the Department of Education.  We ask the following questions.  When comparing per pupil expenditures among school districts can one assume the same costs are included in arriving at that figure?  Is there a common WEB site one can go to go get an apples to apples comparison? 

 The answer to those two questions were very straight forward, no double speak that you seem to get from the School Board.  The Resident Expenditures by Budget Categories is based on all general fund expenditure and revenues annually reported by each School Administrative Union to the State Department of Education separated into the statutorily required eleven budget categories…For the Per-Pupil Expenditure, the Resident Expenditures are divided by the Resident Pupil count…”

 Ms. Beaudoin went on to note, “For the best comparison, you should choose those units with similar number of students and operates schools with similar grade spans. For Scarborough, they have a little over 3100 students and operate schools for kindergarten through grade 12. Similar size school units would be Sanford, South Portland, RSU 57/SAD57 (Massabesic). RSU 60/SAD 60 (Noble), RSU 10 (Mountain Valley), RSU 14 (Windham), and RSU 18. (Messalonskee)” Presumably, this is the cohort the Director of Finance for the Department of Education would use when making per pupil expenditure comparison.

The School Board has selected as the cohort they use to report per pupil expenditures as Cape Elizabeth, RSU 5 (Freeport), Yarmouth, Falmouth, Kennebunk, Gorham, South Portland, Westbrook, RSU 14 (Windham), Cumberland, and perhaps a few others we missed when listed at the public forum.

First of all we found that many people did not know what cohort meant. What is a cohort?  A cohort is a like group used for medical studies such as people in their 50’s or an educational study such as all 2nd grade math students. It can be a group of people used in a study who have the same social class in common.

The cohort suggested by the Department of Education takes into account two important factors in the per pupil calculation, number of students and type of school organization, (district who have kindergarten to 12 educational offerings). One of several factors in the declining state aid to Scarborough is the fact the student population is declining therefore, it seems to SMARTaxes this is an important part of any cohort selected. What is the criteria for the School Board’s cohort?

If you are influenced by the data offered by the School Board in terms of per pupil expenditure, we are urging citizens to take time to get the facts and decide for themselves what the appropriate cohort for comparison purposes is. We are not suggesting you agree with us, only that you get your own facts, do your own research and decide for yourself. You can check for yourself for per-pupil expenditures by the required eleven budget categories at http://www.maine.gov/education/data/indicators/indicators.html  and the directory of school units at http://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/directories.html

We are being asked to make a bigger and bigger “investment” in our schools every year. Take the care to research the value of this investment as you would any other investment you make. The debt service for the Wentworth School, the cost of ground and field maintenance, or the cost of the DARE program is not in the Scarborough Schools per pupil cost figures. What will they be if and when these are added? What else is not reflected in the school budget that influences per pupil costs in other districts? Are these costs in the school district budgets of the cohort schools, whichever cohort you believe is correct?

As the Superintendent said at the public forum, the only person who understands the education funding formula is the person who wrote it. The School Board advocates for education, not residents, not taxpayers, not senior citizens, not the unemployed or underemployed, not for struggling young families. Be an informed voter. Be you own advocate. Go to scarboroughtaxes.com to see some additional comparisons.

Annalee Rosenblatt, SMARTaxes

2013/2014 Per Pupil Costs Scarborough vs. Suggested State Department of Education Cohorts and Others
SAU ID School SAU Name Regular Instruction Special Education Instruction Career and Technical Instruction Other Instruction Student and Staff Support System Administration School Administration Transportation (to include buses) Operations and Maintenance Debt Service All Other Total Resident Pupil Count
3164 Messalonskee RSU 18 $4,781.31 $1,146.28 $154.61 $205.13 $1,072.25 $236.23 $578.48 $682.07 $1,003.28 $378.74 $8.14 $10,246.51 3,072
1148 Sanford Sanford $4,267.20 $2,060.37 $503.24 $254.00 $960.86 $237.89 $618.60 $541.21 $1,303.70 $0.00 $2.37 $10,749.48 3,016
1251 Massabesic RSU 57/MSAD 57 $4,262.58 $1,747.67 $13.87 $207.64 $921.66 $227.66 $581.85 $917.26 $1,185.67 $678.95 $32.98 $10,777.78 3,183
3162 Windham RSU 14 $4,476.85 $1,922.53 $107.30 $250.36 $1,032.59 $281.43 $635.90 $628.50 $1,352.09 $971.97 $0.00 $11,659.52 3,269
1254 Noble RSU 60/MSAD 60 $4,824.98 $1,865.65 $71.16 $229.27 $1,003.28 $303.34 $534.00 $777.41 $1,373.52 $727.84 $34.92 $11,745.38 3,007
STATE TOTAL $4,931.28 $1,860.10 $243.45 $262.45 $949.72 $355.35 $625.94 $625.94 $1,345.92 $776.66 $42.87 $12,056.40 181,503
1149 Scarborough Scarborough $5,284.87 $2,099.85 $95.90 $250.01 $979.41 $283.73 $489.40 $485.66 $1,010.98 $1,318.96 $13.36 $12,312.21 3,147
3159 Mountain Valley RSU 10 $4,909.22 $2,232.95 $683.88 $416.82 $1,092.13 $275.49 $650.40 $681.04 $1,616.99 $536.34 $32.55 $13,127.83 2,704
1029 Cape Elizabeth Cape Elizabeth $5,973.74 $1,836.16 $27.84 $400.66 $1,248.86 $427.89 $637.33 $404.89 $1,468.82 $769.77 $0.00 $13,195.95 1,674
1155 South Portland South Portland $5,370.39 $2,473.75 $82.90 $237.32 $1,090.34 $402.00 $696.04 $473.50 $1,349.85 $1,361.70 $124.70 $13,662.49 3,109
1190 Yarmouth Yarmouth $6,285.97 $1,974.17 $60.15 $585.17 $1,227.42 $410.90 $695.75 $502.76 $1,281.51 $958.12 $47.87 $14,029.80 1,459
1057 Falmouth Falmouth $6,276.29 $1,643.68 $37.42 $278.60 $1,217.73 $365.20 $543.42 $605.77 $1,141.89 $2,034.60 $0.00 $14,144.62 2,125
1245 Cumberland RSU 51/MSAD 51 $6,280.75 $2,489.91 $87.26 $313.99 $1,094.68 $400.11 $600.84 $703.81 $1,566.55 $1,466.18 $0.00 $15,004.06 2,042

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