Corzine’s School Spending Plan: Base Per Pupil Amount Unrealistic
Taking first things first. The most basic plan assumption is the base per pupil amount of $9,649. This is the adequate cost per student upon which the Governor’s entire school spending and state aid plan is calculated. If this number is unrealistic, and it is, than the entire plan is impractical. Here’s why
The State engaged “professional judgment panels” to determine the resources needed to provide a thorough and efficient education for New Jersey’s public school students. The panels came up with costs based upon school type - elementary, middle and high school – and district size – very small, small, moderate, large and very large. The panels determined larger school districts should have greater economies of scale and therefore, lower costs than smaller districts.
However, Corzine’s proposal uses only the large K-12 district cost model to determine the base per pupil amount. The plan then assumes the adequate spending for an elementary school student is equal to the base cost; the cost for a middle school student is 4 percent more than the base cost and for a high school student, 17 percent more than base cost.
The panels established that a large school district is one with an enrollment between 4,000 and 8,000 students. The State then established an adequate cost of $9,649 for an elementary school student, $10.035 for a middle school student and $11,289 for a high school student in large school districts.
Of the 615 school districts in the state, only 73 have enrollments between 4,000 and 8,000 students and 29 districts have more than 8,000 students. Four counties have not a single “large school district” - Cape May, Hunterdon, Salem and Warren. Clearly, the large school distinct cost model is not representative of the state’s school systems and yet, this is the model upon which Corzine’s proposal is entirely based.
Worse yet, there is not a single large or very large school district in the state currently spending at or below the per student costs established by the plan. There are only four large or very large districts currently with an average cost per student below the proposed high school student cost.
As shown by the chart below, the average cost per student is $14,204 for the 102 districts with enrollments of 4,000 and above - $2,915 more per student than the plan establishes for just high school students. Removing the 22 large or very large Abbott districts, with an average per student cost of $16, 521, reduces the average cost to $13, 081 per student - still well above the cost established in the plan just for high school.
Obviously, the large school district cost model isn’t even representative of the state’s large school districts upon which Corzine’s entire plan is based. The plan should be rejected for this reason alone – it’s not based on reality. The plan’s other key assumptions are even more seriously flawed as we shall prove in future posts.
New Jersey Cost Per Student
2007-2008 School Year
Large and Very Large School Districts