RI Education Expenditures: Digging a Little Deeper
[T]he statewide per-student spending on “instructional teachers” (as opposed to the broader “instruction”) actually rose $880, from $5,490 to $6,370, or 16%. Both the size of the expenditure and its increase are greater than any other item — or category — on the list of education expenditures.
To better illustrate this, I teased the TEACHER category out of the INSTRUCTION altogether and included it as a separate item in the below illustration of the change in overall education spending (comparing 2004 to 2007).
Remember, the overall per pupil expenditure rose from $11,465 to $13,660 during this time–the pie got bigger, but the piece that went to the teacher’s stayed relatively the same. But some pieces did get bigger. In particular, the INSTRUCTIONAL SUPPORT and OTHER category. Here is an illustration of where the changes occurred.
There was a “boom” in the “Therapists and Psychologists” category. Per pupil spending in 2004 was $403 (26.8% of the spending in the Inst. Support category). By 2007 it had jumped to $902 (40.3% of spending in the category). It’s pure speculation, but the trend in this state to classify an increasing number of students as being “special needs” may be a causal factor. But like I said, that’s speculation.
Here, there was an overall increase (as a percentage of total expenditures for the OTHER category) in both “Debt Service” and “Capital Projects.” These categories are probably linked. Debt Service expenditures went from $98 per student to $270 while Capital Projects expenditures rose from $43 to $185. I’m guessing that these are basically infrastructure costs.
Yet, to put these numbers in perspective, remember that all spending increased around 20% in 3 years. And nearly 50% of all expenditures fall under one sub-category: teachers. It is understandable that teachers feel as if they are continually picked on when it comes time to cut costs. But the fact is the cost to employ is (usually) the largest line-item in any budget and, in the business world, one of the first places to go to cut costs. In the public sector, it has been the last. For too long, “cuts” have meant a reduction in the expected increase (cutting the COLA from 5% to 3%, for instance). Now, like it or not, real cuts are required. It’s a paradigm shift that some simply aren’t prepared for.