Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: Per pupil spending

Like many locals, I've been following the continuing school budget debate closely. I read the latest round of budget proposals a few weeks ago and felt a fair degree of shock. Some towns would see increases of more than twenty percent? That seemed steep by any definition of the word. True, some of that was out of the school district’s hands, resting on how the state values each town, but I really began to wonder if the school board hadn’t finally gone too far.

And yet I recalled from earlier research that our district is very much on the low end of how much we spend per pupil. The school board claimed this new budget would bring vitally needed services to our district. Could it be this was simply just taking us back to where we need to be?

So I crunched some numbers, my favorite school budget pastime. And I found what the per pupil spending was for our school district as of December 1, 2017, and I compared it to all the neighboring school districts:

School District State Ranking (240 total) Per Pupil Spending
RSU 78 (Rangeley) 35th $16,325
RSU 10 (Rumford) 44th $15,290
RSU 59 (Madison) 93rd $12,659
RSU 74 (New Portland) 112th $12,135
RSU 58 (Phillips) 116th $12,000
RSU 38 (Mount Vernon) 119th $11,984
RSU 54 (Skowhegan) 130th $11,715
RSU 73 (Jay) 159th $11,041
Fayette 169th $10,876
RSU 18 (Rome) 170th $10,846
RSU 9 (Farmington) 177th $10,711

Our school district was dead last among all its immediate neighbors. It’s a sign of the budget crunch we’ve been under for the last several years, as a group in the district has expressed outrage at the current cost of educating students in our society. They have successfully managed to shift the playing field of the budget discussion away from what it takes to adequately fund a modern school district, turning all the focus into a single bottom line issue.

Mt. Blue delivers far more than a 177th rate education to our students. (According to Schooldigger, we sit at 116th for our district and 47th for our high school.) But by failing to adequately fund our district, we continually hobble our efforts and the capacity of our students to learn.

So what will the new budget do to these numbers? Assuming our per pupil spending increased 5.68% (the total increase of the budget), we would end up at $11,319 per student, which would put us just above Jay, if Jay didn’t increase its budget one penny this year.

But since the district added 75 students this year, the per pupil average would necessarily decrease, as the total money is split between more students. Taking that into account, our per pupil spending will end up at $10,959. Just above Fayette. (Again, assuming Fayette and RSU 18 don’t increase their budgets at all.)

I’m not trying to say this budget increase is nothing. But the cost to educate students has gone up across the board in our country, for a variety of reasons. Some like to say, “We did just fine with a piece of chalk and a chalkboard in my day.” I don't mean to disparage or doubt them, but things like the internet change all that. If you consider the environment our children face today, from smart phones to school shootings, trying to insist things still be done as they were fifty years ago is foolhardy.

Our students deserve better. That’s why I’ll be voting to support this school budget, and I hope you do too.

Sincerely,

Bryce Cundick

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1 Responses »

  1. It would be interesting to find out what each town is currently paying for taxes and what each town spends per pupil attending school from that town. With all the information that is available I should be able to figure that out.

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