January 17, 2009

RI Education Expenditures: Digging a Little Deeper

Marc Comtois

Prompted by Justin's analysis, I decided to take a closer look and compare the 2004 (PDF) and 2007 (PDF) statewide education expenditures (per student). First, as Justin noted:

[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.

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Nice analysis Marc. Keep up the good work. Someone has got to tease out the truth on this issue.

BTW, you guys ought to consider linking to Twitter. I recently started linking my blog to it. It seems to be an interesting and effective networking tool.

Posted by: Chuck at January 17, 2009 11:08 AM


Good work.

But quite frankly, just stick to the Pat Crowley approach and that will tell us everything we need to know.

Don't get caught up in how the pie was allocated.

Just look at the GROWTH rate of the "Teacher" spending:

From 2002/2003 to 2006/2007, the Spending on Teachers has outpaced the rate of Inflation by an incomprehensible 83% as follows:

$6,370 - 2006/2007 Teacher spending
$5,116 - 2002/2003 Teacher spending
$1,254 - INCREASE in Spending
24.5% - PERCENT Increase in Spending

That 24.5% rate of INCREASE is 82.6% higher than the 13.4% Inflation rate over that period ...use Mr. Crowley's preferred methond of calculating Inflation by going to "inflationdata.com" and use the calculator for the period June 2003 to June 2007.

Using Mr. Crowley's own method easily disproves the myth of low teacher pay. Too bad our School Committees (and his flock) so easily buy into his false propaganda.

Lastly, education spending has NEVER been reduced /"cut". Rather, people like us simply try to cut the rate of GROWTH, which is and has been unsustainable.

Sadly, uninformed, hand-wringing "Do it for the Children" dopes fall for the Union propaganda and buy into the notion that we are trying to cut spending, when we are simply trying to cut the growth rate.

Posted by: George Elbow at January 17, 2009 11:16 AM

"but the piece that went to the teacher's stayed relatively the same. "

Thanks for finally acknowledging this Marc. That is the point I have been trying to make, that you seem to point out here - collective bargaining costs are not what is driving the costs in education.

Posted by: Pat Crowley at January 18, 2009 12:43 PM


Is it fair, reasonable and sustainable to allow the cost of Teachers to grow at a rate that outpaces Inflation by multiples, year in and year out?

Do you think that when ditricts incur relatively one-time costs associated with building new schools it makes sense that the "non-teaching" piece of the pie has growth?

You would be a far better advocate for your flock if you would at least deal honestly with the facts.

Posted by: George Elbow at January 18, 2009 12:50 PM


I rest my case.

Focus on the real cost driver, which is the cost of Teachers.

The fact that the cost of Teachers far outpaces Inflation is non-debatable. End of story.

If we fix that issue, we fix most of our problem.

Getting into a discussion / debate with Pat on the other minutia is falling for his diversionary spin-miester trap.

Posted by: George Elbow at January 18, 2009 12:55 PM
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