Where Have All the Dollars Gone?

RPS Wants More Money But Already Is Wasting At Least $52.6 Million a Year

Table 13 in the Superintendent’s Annual Report gives us the 2018 disbursements for each of 132 school divisions, along with the end of year Average Daily Membership (“ADM”).  If we calculate the total disbursements, leaving out facilities, debt service, and contingency reserve, we see that Richmond is the eleventh most expensive division per student.


Not only does RPS spend more per student than the average division, it spends still more than the school systems of the peer cities, Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk.


Table 13 breaks out the expenditures in ten basic categories (as well as the three I’ve left out).  Here are those data for Richmond, expressed as differences from the per student division averages.


The $1,659 Richmond excess in the Instruction category accounts for 57.5% of the $2,887 total.

If we multiply these numbers by the Richmond ADM, we get the excess spending, here expressed in millions of dollars.


If Richmond paid higher than average salaries or had more teachers than average, it could help explain (perhaps even justify) some of that $38.2 million excess “Instruction” spending.

We have data on that:

  • The average instructional salary in Richmond (Table 19) was $53,138.87 while the division average was $58,677.08.  Multiplication of  the –$5,538.21 difference by Richmond’s 1,905.22 positions gives –$10.6 million.  Richmond is saving $10.6 million vs. the average division by its lower than average salaries.
  • Dividing Richmond’s 1,905.22 instructional positions by the 23,036.78 ADM gives 0.08270 teachers per student.  The state number is 0.08583.  The difference is a Richmond deficit of 0.00313 teachers per student, which at that $53K average salary is a saving of $3.8 million vs. the division average.

Thus the number of teachers and average salary serve to exacerbate, not mitigate, Richmond’s excess spending for instruction (here, in millions of dollars):


The SOL pass rates give a measure of the return for that $52.6 million excess.

Note: As to SOLs, we have seen that Virginia’s economically disadvantaged (“ED”) students underperform their more affluent peers (“Not ED”) by some 15 to 20 points, depending on the test.  This makes the division SOL average a biased measure that punishes the divisions with larger percentages of ED students.  So let’s look at the pass rates for both groups, not at the division average pass rates.


That’s clear enough: Division average pass rates do not correlate with the spending.  Richmond (the enlarged points with gold fill) spends a lot of money and gets wretched pass rates.  The peer cities (the red fill, from the left Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk) do much better on much less money.

The math data tell the same story, albeit with an even more dismal showing by Richmond.


Curiously, with an R-squared of 7.9%, the ED data for math suggest a slight negative correlation between pass rates and spending.

In light of this, we can wonder why City Council this year gave RPS an extra $37 million of our money without any showing that the extra money would help anything and without any trace of accountability of anyone for the effect of the new money or the lack of effect of that excess $52.6 million in 2018.