The very minute my Christmas vacation started, and I mean on the train on the ride home, I developed a fever. So while my family was out being merry and bright, I was home, bedridden. This was very sad so I decided to take the opportunity to crunch some numbers. But please remember, this blog post was written in a feverish haze.
One thing I’ve been hearing a lot lately, from disparate but not disconnected places, is about the billion dollar BPS budget.
A billion dollars! A billion dollars! BPS is costing the city a billion dollars!
Now granted, a billion is a big number. Really big. But what I wanted to know, is it an unreasonable number.
One thing that I noticed is that people who like to bring up the billion dollar budget like to compare Boston to other states, places like Florida or Alabama, where they are admittedly spending far less on education. I wonder how the parents and students in these states feel about the per pupil spending of their local school districts. Do they think they are being adequately funded?
Some of that can be explained by differences in the cost of living. But also, budgets are statements of values. And Massachusetts has valued and invested in education. And it shows. Here is Massachusetts’ performance compared to other states in the most recent NAEP tests. Even when you adjust for demographics, we come out on top.
This is important, because my fear is that with the governor’s rush to sell off commonly held schools to private interests, we are abandoning our values.
I thought it would be interesting to judge Boston not by the standards of other states but by our own standards. How does Boston’s education spending compare to the other cities and towns in the Commonwealth?
As far as per pupil spending goes, the latest figures from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website is in 2014. They list BPS as spending $18,318 per pupil. That figure wasn’t an outlier at all. In fact, 43 cities and towns spend more per pupil including poorer communities like Lawrence ($19, 672) and Lowell ($18,816). The real outlier was Provincetown. That gay little outpost spends a whopping $30,626 per student.
I placed all of the cities and towns on a chart so you can see where Boston lands next to other places in Massachusetts.
Now, the other kvetching I hear a lot is about how much of Boston’s budget BPS takes up. I’ve heard 40% but I couldn’t find it sourced, and I can’t remember who told me that number. It was probably some whining city councilor.