Where Has All the Money Gone

The ongoing expenditure of over $4 million per year on substitute teachers (in support of a 22% rate of teacher absences of 15 days or more in 2015) along with the annual kerfuffle over the RPS budget reminded me to look again at the vanishing money in the RPS budget.

The current and recent Richmond budgets are on the RPS Web page.  To get the statewide expenditure data, however, we have to wait for VDOE.  They have had the 2016 data (pdf at item 6) since September, 2016 but won’t publish them until sometime near the end of the 2017 school year, so we ‘re stuck with the 2015 numbers.

Here, for a start, are the 2015 disbursements (for everything but facilities, debt service, and contingency reserve) per student (end of year enrollment) for Richmond, a neighbor, three peer jurisdictions, and the state division average.

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And here are the same data expressed as differences from the division average.

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Hmm.  The peer cities cluster around the state average but Richmond is high by over three thousand bucks per kid (26%).  Where is all that money going?

Well, it’s going to almost every budget category.

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In dollar terms, the major item is the instruction budget, with a $37.8 million excess.

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Richmond that year had 10.0 students per instructional position while the state average was 11.8.  That is, Richmond had 18% more teachers per kid, a total of 390 extra instructional positions.  At the average salary of $51,962 per instructional position, we spent an extra $20.3 million.

At the same time, our average instructional salary was (a shameful) $3,927 below the state average of $55,888.  So we saved $8.58 million on those salaries vs. the average.

Combining those numbers, we see $27 million gone missing in the instruction budget vs. the state average:

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No telling where all that money went.  And no telling why we had (and still have) all those extra teachers.  For sure, the extra money and staff are not improving SOL scores or reducing truancy.

But you might hope RPS would figure that out before demanding more public funds.

And while you were hoping, you could hope they might tell us what they’re spending that $27 million on and what those extra teachers are doing, and what we’re getting for it.