Education: 9. Update on Vermont’s Comparative Cost of Education

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On October 20, 2017, The Informed Vermonter published a summary of Vermont’s per pupil pre-K through12 education expenditures and compared them to the same costs incurred in other states and the country as a whole.

All the data in that article was based on the US Census Bureau’s annual Public Education Finance survey for the 2013/2014 school year. In June 2017, the US Census Bureau published an updated survey for the 2014/2015 school year, the results of which will be reviewed below.

Year-Over-Year Comparison

The US average total expenditure per K-12 pupil was $11,392 for the year ended June 30, 2015, up 3.5% from 2014. In Vermont, the total expenditure per pupil was $18,039, representing a 6.2% increase over the prior year. A more detailed analysis of Vermont’s education costs is provided below.

Vermont Per Pupil K-12 Education Spending: 2014 vs. 2015 ($)

Expense Category Year Ended June 30, 2014 Year Ended June 30, 2015 % Change
Total Per Pupil Expenditures 16,988 18,039 +6.2%
Salaries & Wages 9,760 10,270 +5.2%
Instruction 10,165 10,823 +6.5%
-Salaries 6,564 6,880 +4.8%
-Benefits 2,756 3,017 +9.5%
Total Support Services 6,285 6,652 +5.8%
-Pupil Support 1,423 1,506 +5.8%
-Instructional Staff Support 772 838 +8.5%
-General Administration 386 407 +5.4%
-School Administration 1,191 1,288 +8.1%

Source: US Census Bureau, Public Education Finance: 2015, June, 2017

In 2015, Vermont had the sixth highest total per pupil education expenditures in the country. The top ten states are as follows:

States with the Highest Per Pupil Education Expenditures: 2015 ($)

 

State Total Per Pupil Expenditures
New York 21,206
Alaska 20,172
Washington D.C. 19,396
Connecticut 18,377
New Jersey 18,235
Vermont 18,039
Wyoming 16,055
Massachusetts 15,592
Rhode Island 15,179
Pennsylvania 14,717

Source: US Census Bureau, Public Education Finance: 2015, June, 2017

While Vermont’s total per pupil expenditures ranked number six in 2015, in terms of education expenditures per $1,000 of personal income, Vermont ranked number three at $58.49. Basically, Vermont spent 5.85% of its total personal income on pre-K through 12 education is 2015.

Like last year, it is instructive to compare Vermont’s education expenditures to the country as a whole and to the neighboring state of New Hampshire, which ranks number eleven in the country and has somewhat better education outcomes than Vermont.

Comparative Per Pupil Education Expenditures: 2015 ($)

 

Category Vermont New Hampshire USA Average Vermont vs. USA Average
Total Expenditures Per Pupil 18,039 14,697 11,392 +58%
Total Salaries & Wages 10,270 8,052 6,640 +55%
Instruction 10,823 9,190 6,903 +57%
-Salaries 6,880 5,795 4,472 +54%
-Benefits 3,017 2,581 1,795 +68%
Total Support Services 6,652 5,127 4,007 +66%
-Pupil Support 1,506 1,145 651 +131%
-Instructional Staff Support 838 471 540 +55%
-General Administration 407 529 216 +88%
-School Administration 1,288 838 626 +106%

Source: US Census Bureau, Public Education Finance: 2015, June, 2017

Key Observations

Vermont’s Cost Per Pupil Continues to Increase: The data above dates back to 2014 and 2015. Since then, the number of pre-K through 12 students in Vermont has continued to decrease, from 79,513 in 2014 to 77, 078 in 2016. The Agency of Education estimates the number to have declined to 76,220 in 2017. During the same period, the audited General Education expenditures grew from $1.803 billion in fiscal year 2014 to $1.996 billion in fiscal year 2017. Since 2014, the number of students has declined by 3,293 while expenses increased by $192 million.

Staffing Levels Have failed to Keep Pace With a Declining Student Population: Total Salaries & Wages Per Pupil, at $10,832, exceed the national average by 55% and New Hampshire by 27.5%. Total staff-to-student ratios are very high in Vermont.

Vermont’s Administrative Costs are Especially High: Total Support Service Costs exceed the national average by 66%, with School Administration Costs 106% higher. Vermont’s School Administration Costs exceed New Hampshire’s by 54%.

The Actual Expenditures are Higher: The Census Bureau data outlined above EXCLUDE the cost of adult education programs and other community services provided by schools.

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