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$7,500 per Utah K-12 student in FY2008?

The Utah Taxpayers Association estimates that taxpayers will be spending more than $7,500 per student in FY2008. This figure includes operations, facility construction, and interest. It does not include non-K-12 programs.

Isn't this higher than the Census Bureau figure?
The most current Census Bureau spending per student figure for Utah is $5,257 for FY2005, not FY2008. The $7,500 figure is for FY2008, and it includes expenditures that the Census Bureau does not include.

This Census Bureau figure excludes facility construction and interest. The Utah Taxpayers Association's figure (actual, not estimated) for FY2005 excluding facility construction and interest is $5,300, which is within 1% of the equivalent Census Bureau figure.

Including facility construction and debt service, the association calculates that Utah spent $6,309 per student in FY2005 (again, actual not estimated).

How did we get to an estimated $7,500 per student for FY08?
The association recently released its Utah School District Spending Report for FY2006. You can view this report here. The spending figures in this report are actual expenditures, not estimates. In FY2006, Utah school districts spent $6,529 per student. Again, this includes facility construction and interest.

The actual figures for FY2008 won't be available for another 18 months, but we can safely estimate that FY2008 per student spending in Utah will be at least $7,500 because the increase in Minimum School Program (MSP) spending per student from FY2006 to FY2008 is about $1,000. Adding the MSP increase to the FY2006 actual expenditure yields more than $7,500 per student for FY2008. This is a conservative estimate because it assumes that facility construction, interest, and non-MSP operating costs per student will not increase from FY2006 to FY2008.

By the way, facility construction and interest are not fixed costs in a state where enrollment is projected to grow by about 3% annually for at least the next decade. There are no fixed costs associated with buildings that have not yet been built. As long as Utah is expected to experience enrollment growth of about 3% annually, Utahns can expect to continue spend more than a $500 million per year on facility construction and interest.

However, Utahns can spend less if vouchers divert a portion of enrollment growth to private schools at a lower cost per student.

Over the years, we have compared our per student spending figures with the Census Bureau's figures. We are typically within 1% of their figures when we exclude facility construction and interest. The Census Bureau excludes these costs from their expenditure figures.

We suspect the very small difference is due to certain operating expenses that show up in Fund 32 which is normally where capital expenditures are recorded. Since the Census Bureau excludes capital altogether, that may be excluding operating expenditures that show up in Fund 32.

Our calculations are based on Annual Financial Report data from the Utah State Office of Education.

They've been very helpful in providing information over the years, and we have enjoyed working with them even though they think we are from the Dark Side *g*.

The spending-per-student amount is the most important statistic in education.

The most important statistics in education are performance measures.

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