The per pupil expenditure report includes expenditure data from fiscal years 2016–2020 . Charter schools report their spending in a different format than the districts contained in this report, see charter school revenue and expenditure data.
These calculations show all school operating expenditures including those outside the general fund such as grants, private donations, and revolving accounts. They also include payments for local resident pupils who are being educated in schools outside the district. In addition to showing the overall cost per pupil, they provide detail about how much schools spend in specific functional areas such as administration, teaching, and maintenance.
The file opens to a single, detailed district report by funding source and functional areas. Use the dropdown menus on the detailed report to select a district and fiscal year. By clicking on the tabs at the bottom of the workbook, there are additional reports showing a 3-year trend by major functional areas, and a summary showing per pupil expenditures for all districts. There are also tabs with the complete 5-year dataset, both expenditures and pupils, to support additional analysis.
It is important to note that per pupil expenditures are not calculated for out-of-district expenditures, only total expenditures are shown, see additional explanation below.
Per pupil expenditures are calculated from information provided on each district's End of Year Financial Report (EOYR). This is a comprehensive report of revenues and expenditures that occurred during each fiscal year.
Districts are required to hire auditing firms to verify the accuracy of the data on the EOYR. In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) conducts a careful review of the data during the months following the report's submission. If any changes are necessary, districts must file amendments.
The following funding sources are all included in the functional expenditure per pupil measure:
Typically, school committee and municipal school appropriations, approved annually by town meetings and city councils, account for seven out of every eight dollars spent on education.
The functional spending categories included in the per pupil calculations follow the order of the DESE chart of accounts:
* Code discontinued starting in fiscal year 2018
+ New or updated code starting in fiscal year 2019
Spending categories that are not included in the per pupil expenditure calculations are: Community services (6000 series), fixed assets (7000 series), and debt service (8000 series).
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.
The eleventh category includes expenditures made on out-of-district tuitions and transportation. Previous versions of this report included an out-of-district per pupil expenditure. However, this measure was 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. If we were able to assign students to each tuition function to calculate per pupil expenditures at that level, it might be more useful, but that information is not available. Instead, the report only shows total expenditures for each 9000 series function.
The total per pupil expenditure includes all eleven categories of spending, and combines both groups of students, in-district and out-of-district.
The per pupil spending calculations published compare spending, which occurs throughout the school year, to the average number of pupils, which normally fluctuates over the school year. The enrollment statistic used is called full-time equivalent average membership or FTE.
Full-time equivalency refers to the percentage of time that students are enrolled during the school year. A pupil who arrives on November 1 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.
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, but not circuit breaker, grants, or revolving funds. Because of this, what qualifies as net school spending is slightly lower than a district's total expenditure. Reports showing each district's actual and budgeted net school spending, compared to what is required, are available on the DESE web site, see detailed compliance reports and the 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:
Rob O'Donnell 781-338-6512
Rob Hanna 781-338-6525
Last Updated: October 19, 2021
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370
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