Bigger Bucks Vanishing Into Failure

We have seen that, for the most part, Richmond pays its teachers less than average


Let’s see if we can figure out where the money is going and what we’re getting for it.

Table 13 in the Superintendent’s Annual Report shows disbursements by division.  The data below are from the 2018 table, not including the spending for facilities, debt service, and contingency.  The Richmond total is $361,601,063.

(That’s just north of a third of a BILLION dollars.)

The table also gives the end-of-year Average Daily Membership (“ADM”).  Dividing the total disbursement by the ADM for Richmond, three peer cities, and the division average, gives us:



Breaking out that $2,887 per student excess by category gives us:


Note:  The table tells us that the preK spending includes Head Start; the “other” educational spending goes for enterprise operations, community service programs, and other matters that do not involve the delivery of instruction or related activities for K-12 students.

Here we see particularly large spending for attendance and health (6% of the $2,887 excess), food services (8%), pre-kindergarten (19%), and “other” educational programs (6%).  Those are the small change, however: 57% of the excess goes for instruction.

The only way to get this unusually large expenditure for instruction while paying most teachers less than average is to have a lot of teachers or spend a lot of money on something other than teachers’ salaries.

Let’s look at that from two directions: First, the relationship, if any, between disbursements and SOL pass rates; second, the relationship, if any, between number of teachers and pass rates.

We know that, in terms of SOL pass rates, Virginia’s economically disadvantaged (“ED”) students underperform their more affluent peers (“Not ED”) by ca. 15-20%.  This renders the division average pass rate unfair to those divisions with relatively large ED populations.  So let’s look at the data for both groups, not at the overall division averages:


Richmond is the gold points.  Whatever they’re spending all that money on, we’re getting precious little return.

The peer cities, Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk are the red points, left to right.  They are spending a lot less per student than Richmond and getting a lot more performance.

Lynchburg is blue; Charles City, light green.

The fitted lines suggest that pass rates for both groups decrease with increasing disbursements but the R-squared values are tiny for the Not ED group and right small for the ED.

The math data tell much the same story, but with R-squared values that suggest a bit more of a (negative) relationship between pass rate and spending.


In any case, the divisions that spend more per student do not get better SOL pass rates on average.

The Superintendent’s Table 19 gives us the number of instructional positions (classroom teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, technology instructors, principals, and assistant principals) per student.   Juxtaposing those data with the pass rates gives:


BTW: The peers have rearranged here.  From the left it’s Newport News, Hampton, and Norfolk.  Notice that Hampton and Norfolk have more instructional positions per student that we do, while spending less per student.

Go figure!  Richmond is spending lots of money on instruction and not paying most of its teachers an average salary but operating with one of the lowest instructional position/student ratios in the state. 

And we’re getting precious little for it.

I’ll save the spending puzzle for another post.  First hypothesis: Richmond is paying a lot to people other than teachers.

In the meantime, these data tell us that division average reading pass rates increase with the instructional position/pupil ratio.  The R-squared for the ED students, 5.9%, says there’s a hint of a correlation (ρ = +0.24).  For the Not ED pass rates, we also see a positive slope but the R-squared is less than 1%..

The math data tell the same story but with even lower R-squared values.


So, as to Richmond: More money, fewer instructional positions, lower teacher pay, awful pass rates.  Whatever the problem with Richmond’s schools may be, it’s not a shortage of money.