Could we be spending too much on education?Lafayette Parish School Board
- Lafayette Parish’s average cost per student is $18,034
- That’s more than even the most expensive private schools
- Student Enrollment is 30,547
- Average Attendance is 28,284
- LPSS’s total budget is $510,094,635
Within the 218 leaves of Lafayette Parish School Board’s latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report can be found spending and other statistics worthy of analysis. One of our favorite things to check on is the Lafayette School Board’s the annual cost-per-student number. Page 158 of their document reflects that cost is just $10,510 per student. How do they arrive at this number?
The “total student expenditure” figure of $321,053,860 appears on page 158. How they arrive at that number is a mystery because this is the only place you’ll find that number in the entire document. Rest assured that the total cost to run the school system is not $321,053,860. To find that number, we flip back to the bottom of page 19, which reads, “The unified budget, which contains budgets of all funds projects resource uses of $510,094,635.” The explanation of the differences between those two numbers involves “state-mandated” costs (like pensions) that school board members may not re-apportion to other purposes. Therefore, they must be discarded from the discretionary spending side of the equation. However, if the school did not exist, a full $510 million would not have been lifted from taxpayers’ wallets.
The simple math on the whole budget divided by enrolled students works out to $16,699. However, the state and federal government don’t typically use enrollment numbers for funding education. Instead, they use the more reliable criterion of attendance. The School System’s CAFR does not provide us with the attendance number, but they must report it to the Louisiana Department of Education. Normally, the LDOE provides this data to the public on a fairly regular basis in their Annual Financial and Statistical Report (or AFSR). Their website doesn’t have the 2016-17 school year posted yet, but any information it contains is just a quick phone call or email away. Lafayette’s average daily attendance (or ADA) is 28,284.5. If we divide the unified budget by the ADA number, the average cost per student actually works out to $18,034.
The reason all this is important is we’ve heard, repeated over and over again, that our schools fail because we aren’t spending enough money. However, the numbers are quite clear. If that money was put in a voucher that parents could use at any school of their choice, it’s nearly enough to send a child to Episcopal School of Acadiana or Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau. In fact, the tuition numbers released by the Daily Advertiser last year show that a parent could send two kids to a school like St. Thomas More, Teurlings, or Westminster, or four kids to Lafayette Christian Academy. All of these schools have a great reputation for excellence in education and great sports and other extracurricular programs as well.
If these examples don’t fully debunk the myth that our schools are almost last in the nation because too little money is spent, then nothing will.