Last Thursday, we heard the preliminary findings from the school funding study commissioned by the State Board of Education. There is so much to say, it is hard to know where to begin. Over the coming weeks and months, we will take a verrrry close look at how Alabama’s school districts spend money. The toughest part is putting these numbers together in an easily digestible form.
Let’s look first at spending per pupil during the 2012-2013 school year. All spending data was obtained from the ALSDE.
Four categories of spending are included in the table below:
- Instruction: Includes all expenditures dealing directly with the interaction between teachers and students. This does include expenditures for athletics, band, and school clubs.
- Instructional Support: Includes services or activities providing supervision and/or technical and logistical support to facilitate and enhance instruction. This includes local school administration.
- Operations and Maintenance: Includes expenditures to keep the schools open, comfortable and safe for use and keeping the grounds, building and equipment in effective working condition and good state of repair.
- Transportation: Includes expenditures for keeping the school transportation program up and running, including co- and extracurricular activities.
These definitions were taken from the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) Budget Hearing Glossary of Terms.
Categories of spending not included are Food Services, Capital Outlay, Debt Service, Administrative and “Other”. Food services are mostly covered by federal revenues. Capital outlay and debt service vary widely from year to year and are tough to examine in a one-year snapshot.
Administrative expenditures are tricky to examine because districts are not consistent in the way they report administrative expenditures, utilizing cost centers in various ways. The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) explains the difficulty in using Administrative expenditures as a basis for comparison among school systems this way:
Several caveats are in order in characterizing General Administrative Services, which include several functionally distinct offices within the central administration, including Information Technology, Personnel, Finance and the executive levels of Student Services, Special Education, and Instruction. Other systems, which may be organized differently, may show more of these costs at the school level with a more disbursed deployment of personnel, while others centralize even more costs such as information technology that might be distributed to schools instead. System coding practices may not capture some of these differences and may be undetected in the data presented. (Analysis of Non-Instructional Expenditures, Staffing and Operating Practices in the Baldwin County Public School System, 2011, page 34.)
Given the number of amazing ways Tableau can display data, it seems a basic table is almost unworthy of placement. Having the ability to choose which school districts you wish to display makes this a useful way to interact with the data.
Take a look. Click around. And then let me know what you want to see next.