Friday, November 1, 2013

What is the Approximate Disaggregated Cost per Student for Children Enrolled in the Hoboken Public Schools? Answer: $10,413 (Charter), $13,659 (PreK) and $28,937 (Hoboken District Public Schools)

2013-2014 Hoboken Public School Budget Overview
(student enrollment numbers +/- 3 students)
The $64 Million Dollar Question of late appears to be, what is the cost per student in the Hoboken School District? Evidently this is causing some debate, arguments, and disagreements. The topic came up in a recent candidates debate and there have been a number of "letters to the editors" in local area newspapers and online forums and reported by local media

Calculating per pupil costs is not as complicated as some make it appear and not as simple as some make think. In general, the calculation involves the district's total expenditures divided by the district's total number of students

According to the 2013-2014 Hoboken Board of Education Budget Overview total revenues were equal to $64,300,000. This is the total revenue for the Hoboken District Pubic School plus the Hoboken charter schools, plus the State Mandated and Funded PreK program.  While estimates seem to vary, a general consensus for total number of students serviced by the public schools seems to be 3,100. Unfortunately, this would not give us an accurate per pupil cost since these three entities (the Hoboken School District, the charter schools, and the PreK program) operate in different buildings, with different resources, different salary guides, and consist of different districts and providers. It makes much more sense and is more accurate to parse the numbers so that revenues are matched with the appropriate entity-- charter schools, the PreK program and finally the Hoboken School District. 

Charter School Per Pupil Costs

A review of the official NJ School Performance Report website indicates that there are 757 students attending charter schools in Hoboken. Let's round this off to 750 since this is not an exact science. According to the 2013-14 Budget overview, there is $7,810,000 directed to Hoboken's charter school. This works out to about $10,413 per charter school student in Hoboken

State Mandated and Funded PreK Program Per Pupil Costs

There are 746 children enrolled in the State mandated PreK program in Hoboken. According to the 2013-14 Budget overview, there is $10,190,000 directed to Hoboken's State Mandated and Funded PreK Program. This program is executed primarily via contracted providers such as Catapult (contract terminated 2013), HOPES, CAP, Inc., and Mile Square Early Learning.This works out to about $13,659 per PreK Program student

Hoboken District Public Schools Per Pupil Costs

There are about 1600 students enrolled in the Hoboken Public Schools if you take the number of 3,100 to be true and if you take away the 750 charter school students and the 746 PreK children (Again, not an exact science but roughly 3,100 students - 1500 students = 1600 students). According to the 2013-14 Budget overview, there is $46,300,000 directed toward the Hoboken District Public Schools. This works out to about $28,937 per Hoboken District Public School student

If we wanted to round this out, I think it would be fair to say charter schools spend about $10,500 per student, PreK spends about $14,000 per student, and the Hoboken District Pupil Schools spend about $29,000 per student. 

Admittedly, this is a simple calculation but it does something that is very important. It disaggregates the total budget into its constituent parts and gives us a comparative and proportional sense of the relative costs per student in Hoboken. Once per student costs are accurately estimated, more informed policy decisions can be made by politicians, taxpayers, and voters concerning costs and outcomes of their educational dollar. 

How does this compare? According to an official release on April 12, 2013 by the State of New Jersey Department of Education, there is an average of $18,047 spent per pupil in the state. In fact, by clicking here you can view an interactive map of per pupil spending for the entire state of New Jersey. The State's calculation for "cost per student" uses a more complicated and multi-factor model and does not always correspond with the fairly straight forward statistic used by some agencies and entities.

According to some policymakers, "cost per student" is not always the best statistic for evaluating the cost of education. There are certain issues with using that rubric that do not always scale well and there are requirements certain schools and districts have that others do not. Nonetheless, like a pitcher's ERA in baseball, "cost per student" is a statistic that seems to resonate with most people when talking about educational funding. Unlike a pitcher's ERA, there is some discussion and debate concerning what factors to consider in its calculation.