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School District says Spending on Students Lowest Since '08

ERS' Philadelphia work cited in the Metro - Philadelphia

This article appeared in the Metro. View that version here.

A new analysis from the School District of Philadelphia shows that spending on students in the district has declined to its lowest level since the 2007-2008 school year. At the same time, increases in the cost of teacher pension and benefits have risen, eating up a larger share of the district’s budget.

Those two factors mean that the district has made “ radical cuts in virtually all functions, including critical supports for teachers and school leaders,” a statement by the district says. 

Those conclusions, arrived at by consultants from Education Resource Strategies, shows that spending on student services and enrichment has fallen by 40 percent between 2011 and 2014. Spending on professional development has seen a 68 percent.

The analysis comes just days after representatives of the school district appeared before a skeptical city council to ask for $105 million to shore up next year’s budget.

Matthew Stanski, the district’s chief financial officer said the main factor driving down expenditures is the rise of enrollment in charter schools. 

“There are fewer dollars, and the dollars are being consumed by increased charter costs, increased retirement costs, and increased health costs,” Stanski said. 

When a student goes to a charter school, the total amount of money that the district spends on him or her travels with the student. But that calculation of how much the district spends on each student includes costs the district cannot shed quickly -- like building maintenance.

The result is that the number of students in charters schools leaves district schools with diminished resources. Because pension and health benefit costs are rising, they are eating a bigger slice of the remaining resources. 

The district’s analysis could put pressure on the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to grant concessions that some members of the School Reform Commission have been seeking. But that could be tricky. District teachers make less than their suburban counterparts, and they haven’t seen a raise in years. 

The average district teacher earned $71,000 in 2011, about the same as they did this year. Pension and health benefits per teacher have swelled from $27,000 per teacher to $41,000, according to the district’s analysis.

School District says Spending on Students Lowest Since '08
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