Archive for Thursday, December 22, 2005

Per-pupil costs lowest in Lansing

December 22, 2005

Lansing school district had the lowest average cost per student of Kansas' 300 school districts in 2004-05, and that's not a bad thing, according to Lansing schools superintendent Randal Bagby and State Rep. Kenny Wilk.

The Kansas State Department of Education last week released the statistics of district spending per student. The department said the statewide average cost per student was $9,707. The highest cost per student was $17,580 by the Rolla school district in western Kansas. Lansing's per-student cost was $7,244.

Bagby, though admitting "it'd be nice to have more money," said Lansing's numbers were "a clear testament of our efficiency."

"If you compare it to our test scores, it means we're doing more for less," he said. "We're doing as good a job as everyone else with less money."

Veryl Peter, director of school finance for the Kansas Department of Education, said the average spending per student was calculated by adding up all the district's revenue and expenses, including general fund, supplementary general fund, bond and interest, federal aid, capital outlay and food service budgets, and dividing the sum by the number of students in the district.

Peter said Lansing's low spending per pupil was partly due to little spending of the capital outlay budget - the district spent $377,000 last year on capital items, which is about $180 per student.

Lansing's overall figure also comes from economy of scale, he said.

"(Lansing is) one of the more efficient districts because of their size," Peter said.

Lansing's full-time equivalency enrollment, on which state funding is based, was 2,097 students last year. That puts the district out of range for low-enrollment funding from the state; the cutoff last year was 1,725 students.

About two-thirds of Kansas school districts receive extra money for low enrollment, Peter said.

Other factors for which districts receive extra money from the state are the number of bilingual, at-risk and special education students, and for transportation. The number of students receiving free lunches determines at-risk enrollment.

Lansing has few bilingual, at-risk and special education students and relatively low transportation costs, Peter said, so the district doesn't get as much money from the state as some other districts.

"It's not good or bad. It's just the factors each district has," he said.

Wilk, a Lansing Republican, agreed. He said Lansing's low per-student spending was neither good nor bad but merely "a manifestation of the (school finance) formula."

"I pay attention to our results, our test scores," he said.

And, Wilk said, Lansing will be able to increase spending per pupil next year, when he expects the State Legislature to increase school funding.

"I don't know how much, but it is certainly safe to say there will be more state funding," he said.

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