Blogarama Vocal Minority: Schools and Numbers

Vocal Minority

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Schools and Numbers

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m getting tired of the school budget issue. It’s everywhere we turn. Today’s Oregonian (April 3, 2005) has another tired article about the teachers in Hillsboro’s district having to absorb the financial screw-ups for the board. In Salem, the issue is whether they give them $5.2 or $5.4 billion. So finding this addtl. $200 million means that every other budget issue there is tainted with the concept of stealing from the schools. Now I don’t want to be in a position to argue whether teachers are over or underpaid, or how many months they work each year. Those are not my issues. What I’d really like to see is some valid, reliable numbers so I can figure out if my small part of that $5+ billion is enough. Everyone knows that government will spend every penny they get. Our part is to give it to them and tell them when we’ve hit our limit. I tried to do exactly that today with the Oregonian article and got the following results.

Article Facts:

Hillsboro has 19,347 students, almost 1000 teachers, a 28:1 student-teacher ratio and a $130 million budget.
Based on the above:
At $130 mil and 19,347 students that figures out to $6,719 per student. Is that it? Does it include 40% of property taxes and federal money, because if it does it seems out of line with the claim of $7,357 in 2001 according to the Oregon School Boards Assn.
They claim that core classes exceed the ratio and give as an example the teacher with 38 students in her class. But doesn’t that mean that other classes are smaller than 28, like 18. Based on a 28:1 ratio that means the school should have 690 teachers, so what about the other 310.
Although the article says 86% of the budget is spent on wages and benefits, the Oregon State Education Dept. says 70.1% is the average for teaching staff. That leaves $91,130,000 for either 690 full time or 1000 full & part time teachers. You don’t need a calculator to ask how in the world could it average $91,130 per year per teacher.

At the Oregon School Boards Assn. I also found the following interesting facts:
In 2001 Oregon ranked 20th in the nation in expenditures per student at $7,357, higher than Washington $6,496, California $6,255 and Idaho $5,386.
Oregon spends $346 less per student on salaries than the national average but ranked 14th for the average salary paid. Meaning that they have bigger classes, but are paid above
average.
So, is there a crisis in education funding in Oregon? Beats me. It depends on where you get your facts. There seems to be as many funding angles as there are school districts in Oregon. Hillsboro has 28 students per teacher but Salem-Keizer has 23.2 Beaverton has been able to stay within budget without cutting days but Portland can’t even come close and has the shortest year in the nation. On top of all this the legislature keeps playing around with the school system, like CIM & CAM. What I’d like to see is the Oregon Secretary of Education promote an accounting system for all school districts that gives all of the costs for education in a form we can trust and understand, a system that wouldn’t allow distortion or hiding of expenses.
Just the facts.

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