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School Finance: Statistical Comparisons

FY12 Expenditures Per Pupil, All Funds

Explanatory Notes

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FY12 expenditures per pupil ccontinues the effort to present Massachusetts school spending data in a way that is comprehensive, comparable, and transparent to the general public.

These calculations show all school operating expenditures including those outside the general fund such as grants, private donations, and revolving accounts. They include payments for local resident pupils who are being educated in schools outside the district. As well as showing the overall cost per pupil, they provide detail about how much schools spend in specific functional areas such as teaching, maintenance, and administration.

A new summary report shows individual districts' recent trends in total expenditures, enrollment, and per pupil expenditures in comparison with the Massachusetts state average.

Data Source and Timing

Per pupil expenditures for Fiscal Year 2012 are calculated from information provided on each district's End of Year Financial Report (EOYFR). The document is a comprehensive report of revenues and expenditures that occurred during the 2011-2012 school year.

Districts are required to hire auditing firms to verify the accuracy of the data on the EOYPFR. In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) conducts a careful review of the data during the months following the report's submission. If any changes are necessary, districts must file amendments.

Spending from all funds

The following funding sources are all included in the functional expenditure per pupil measure.

  • school committee appropriations
  • municipal appropriations outside the school committee budget that affect schools
  • federal grants
  • state grants
  • circuit breaker funds
  • private grants and gifts
  • school choice and other tuition revolving funds
  • athletic funds
  • school lunch funds
  • other local receipts such as rentals and insurance receipts

Typically, school committee and municipal school appropriations, approved annually by town meetings and city councils, account for seven out of every eight dollars spent upon education.

Functional categories

Categories of spending reported in the Expenditure Per Pupil calculations follow the order of the ESE chart of accounts:

2100, 2200Instructional leadership
2305, 2310Classroom and specialist teachers
2315, 2340Other teaching services
2350Professional development
2400Instructional materials, technology and equipment
2800,2900Guidance and psychological
3000In-district transportation and other pupil services
5000Employee benefits and fixed charges
9000Programs with other school districts (tuition, transportation)

Within these eleven functions, 63 sub-functions provide further detail. For example, "pupil services" can be broken down into spending on attendance, medical/health services, transportation, food services, athletics, student body activities, and school security.

The eleven functions match those incorporated in the changes to the Chapter 70 foundation budget calculations that occurred in FY07. This direct correspondence should facilitate current and future analysis of the validity of the foundation budget.

Categories of spending that are not included in the Expenditure Per Pupil are:

6000Community services (civic activities, recreation, health services to non-public schools, transportation to non-public schools)
7000Acquisition, improvement and replacement of fixed assets
8000Debt retirement and debt service for school construction and other purposes

These categories are normally excluded from per pupil expenditure comparisons. There is so much variation in districts' building programs that counting these large expenses in the total would unfairly skew the results.

In-District And Out-of-District Spending and Pupils

Most school spending goes toward educating local resident pupils in local schools. However, about five percent of the nearly one million public school children in Massachusetts are enrolled in publicly-funded settings outside the district. School districts pay tuition for pupils at special education schools, charter schools, and other placements. Transportation costs often add to the expense.

The first ten functional categories are for services provided within the school district. In those categories, per pupil calculations are limited to the pupils enrolled at the district. An "in-district" per pupil expenditure is calculated for these functions and measures what is spent on the pupils enrolled at the district.

For the eleventh category (programs with other school districts), tuition and transportation outlays are divided by the number of pupils they pay for. An ""out-of-district"" per pupil expenditure is calculated for this cohort of pupils. This measure can be difficult to interpret when comparing districts, because it is typically a combination of high-cost special education placements and lower-cost school choice, charter school, and other out-of-district settings.

The "total per pupil expenditure" includes all eleven categories of spending, and combines both groups of students.

Measuring enrollment: the concept of full-time equivalent average membership

The per pupil spending calculations published here compare spending, which occurs throughout the school year, to the average number of pupils, which normally fluctuates throughout the school year. The enrollment statistic used is called "full-time equivalent average membership."

Full-time equivalency refers to the percentage of time that students are enrolled during the school year. A pupil who arrives on November 1st and is still enrolled at the end of the year, for example, would be assigned full-time equivalency of somewhere in the range of eight-tenths.

District spending requirements

The Commonwealth does impose a strictly enforced total spending requirement called "net school spending" which is an integral component of the Chapter 70 state aid formula. Net school spending includes local appropriations, Chapter 70 aid, and special education circuit breaker monies, but not grants or revolving funds. Because of this, what qualifies as "net school spending" is slightly lower than a district's total expenditure. Each district's actual and budgeted net school spending, compared to what is required, is available on the ESE web site:

View HTML Page
Detailed compliance reports
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Trends in net school spending: see "Chapter 70 district profiles 

Otherwise, aside from one maintenance spending provision administered by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, there are no spending requirements for specific functional areas imposed by the Commonwealth.


Questions and comments can be addressed to any of the following School Finance staff:

Roger Hatchrhatch@doe.mass.edu781-338-6527

Last Updated: June 27, 2014
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