Taxpayer Guide to Education Spending – Total Spending Per Pupil (#OpenData Visualization)

An explanation of “Total Spending per Pupil”, from the NJ Department of Education:

“The Taxpayers’ Guide to Education Spending (Taxpayers’ Guide) provides the public the opportunity to view and compare all dollars spent on students enrolled in the public school system. In 2010-11, the Department updated this publication (previously the “Comparative Spending Guide”) to add a more inclusive measure of total costs for students from preschool through grade 12. The Budgetary Per Pupil Costs Indicators (1 through 15) have historically excluded certain expenditures, some of which are funded by entities other than the school district and/or taxpayers. “Total Spending” supplements the Budgetary Costs by including the omitted categories to represent all costs. These categories include: transportation, special revenues, pension and benefits paid by the state, facilities (including debt service), equipment, total food services, judgments against the school district, and tuition/costs for students sent out of district (except payments to Charter schools). Consistent with the decision to include tuition payments for students sent out of district for preschool, special education, or other programs, the number of students sent out of district is added to the district’s enrollment denominator for the calculation of Total Spending Per Pupil.

In addition to the all-inclusive total spending measure, the Budgetary Per Pupil Cost Indicators continue to be included to allow districts to review and compare various components of a school district’s annual budget data with other districts in the state. The Budgetary Per Pupil Cost is the amount districts publish in their UserFriendly Budgets prior to the school election. Unless otherwise noted in the indicator descriptions, districts are ranked from lowest to highest costs. Districts that did not report any values (N.R.) and those that moved from a different enrollment group (N.A.) are excluded from the rankings. To increase comparability, the school districts have been divided into groups based on operating type and enrollment projected for October 2017. Charter schools are included as a separate group from other public schools. The categories are as follows:


Total Spending Per Pupil Total Spending Per Pupil was first developed in 2010-11 to provide a more comprehensive representation of school district expenditures, since the former per pupil measures excluded some significant cost categories. This variable uses a larger enrollment number, including all students for which the district is financially responsible.

The Total Spending measure adds the following items to the costs already included in the Budgetary Cost (Indicator 1):

  1. state payments on behalf of districts for pension, social security, and post-retirement medical;
  2. transportation costs (including students transported to nonpublic and charter schools);
  3. judgments against the school district;
  4. all food service expenditures (including those covered by school lunch fees);
  5. capital outlay budgeted in the general fund (facilities and equipment);
  6. special revenues supported by local, state, and federal revenues (i.e. preschool, IDEA, Title I);
  7. payments by the district to other private and public school districts for the provision of regular, special, and preschool education services (charter school students and their associated costs are only included in the charter school in which they are being educated).
  8. debt service for school debt; and
  9. an estimate of the district’s share of the debt service the state is paying for school construction bonds issued for school construction grants and School Development Authority projects.

The number of students sent to other entities (except charter schools) is added to the district’s average daily enrollment in order to calculate the per pupil expenditure. It should be noted that sent students and their associated costs are included in the per pupil cost of both the sending district as well as the school where the student is actually being educated. Therefore, it is not appropriate to sum all districts’ total expenditures, as this would overstate the aggregate cost. This variable is calculated using audited (actual) data since some of the additional categories are not available in districts’ budgets. Two years of data are provided for comparison.”

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