An annual rite of spring, all of New Jersey’s public schools take a turn in the state’s budget spotlight with the release of their per-pupil spending numbers.
Statewide, New Jersey’s public schools are creeping ever closer to the $20,000 mark, with an average in 2013-2014 of $19,211 per student, a 1.6 percent increase from 2012-2013.
The map includes total spending per pupil, budgetary spending that excludes certain costs not common to every district, and classroom spending, which is largely made up of teacher and other educator salaries.
The annual Taxpayers’ Guide to Education Spending, first started almost 20 years ago, has always been a sensitive release for the state Department of Education.
Previously, it came out just before the spring budget votes, often putting districts on the defensive. Yet even though budgets in the vast majority of districts are no longer up for public vote, the numbers are no less sensitive as schools face public pressure to contain spending.
The data is broken down into various subcategories, too, including classroom spending, administrative spending, and even extracurricular and food-services. The full dataset is available online.
Even the methodology comes under scrutiny since the state shifted from only comparing similar costs across districts to wrapping virtually all spending — including contributions to pensions — into the mix, pushing the numbers even higher.
The top spending per pupil continues to be in the state’s county special services districts, serving students with disabilities.
Bergen County Special Services continues to be the very highest, at $91,459 for each of its 660 students, a slight drop from the year before. A distant second is Mercer County Special Services ($64,853) and Atlantic County ($56,584).
Among nonspecialized districts, the outliers haven’t much changed either. The tiny one-school Avalon district rose to $48,835 for each of its 99 students, followed by Stone Harbor at $37,837 apiece for its 96 students.
Among K-12 districts, two came in above $30,000 per pupil: Asbury Park at $33,109, and Keansburg at $30,290.
The list of lowest-spending schools, according to the state’s math, is dominated by charter schools. By law receiving no more than 90 percent of a district’s per-pupil amounts, 27 of the charters were listed at below $15,000 per pupil last year.
Still, not all charters were low-spending, with nine spending over $20,000 per pupil, led by Greater Newark Charter at $23,121.
NJ Spotlight, an independent online news service on issues critical to New Jersey, makes its in-depth reporting available to NewsWorks.