Report compares student spending vs. performance

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A report from the John Locke Foundation disseminating basic information about North Carolina’s public schools regarding per pupil expenditures and student performance results paints a not-so-pretty picture for school districts in the Roanoke-Chowan area.

According to Dr. Terry Stoops, Director of Education Studies for the John Locke Foundation, the NC Department of Public Instruction released financial data last week for the 2014-15 school year. That data included per pupil expenditure figures and (composite) grade-level math and reading proficiency percentages for students in grades 3-8.

The report showed the state’s average per-pupil expenditure totaled $9,182 last year. That amount is the product of multiple revenue streams, including state ($5,638), federal ($1,005), local ($2,133), and 5-year average capital ($406) dollars.

“As one would expect, the state average masks huge variability in district spending,” Stoops noted. “On the low end, Surry County Schools spends an average of $7,300 a year, while Hyde County Schools spends on average $17,600 per child. Although Surry’s expenditures are underwhelming compared to their peers, their students outperform Hyde’s on state reading and math tests.”

Last year, 85 of North Carolina’s 115 school districts spent more than $9,000/student on operating and capital expenses, and no district spent less than $7,300 per student.

What is eye-popping in Stoops’ report is the comparison of per public expense as compared against End of Grade (EOG) composite math and reading scores for grades 3-8.

Bertie County ranked as the 10th highest in the state last year for per-pupil expenditures ($12,315.24). Meanwhile, Bertie’s composite EOG scores were 30.4 percent (grade level proficient) for math and 37.1 percent for reading.

Northampton County Public School students received the 12th highest per pupil expenditures statewide at $12,062.42. Their composite EOG scores were 21.3 percent and 30.4 percent respectively for math and reading.

Gates County’s per pupil expenses ($11,351.17) ranked as the 19th highest in the state. On the academic end, those students turned in composite EOG scores of 48.1 percent in math and 54.8 percent in reading, ranking them as the best the RC area has to offer.

Hertford County ranks 26th in per-pupil expenditures ($10,806.34). On the EOG test scores, those students performed at a 28.5 percent proficiency in math and 34.9 percent in reading.

Statewide, the average composite EOG scores were 52.2 percent in math and 56.3 percent in reading.

“It is important to remember that the amount spent per student is not necessarily a reflection of quality or a guarantee of competence. Money matters insofar as it is used to cultivate productive educational environments. Regrettably, some districts are more successful at doing so than others,” Stoops noted.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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