Scott Williams, Minot
During the coming months there will be a lot of discussion about local government spending. The county, city and school district all seem to have needs that will definitely translate into higher taxes for all of us.
It seems that government entities at all levels attempt to define their accomplishments in some way by the amount of money they spend. They also seem to explain some of their shortfalls by suggesting that they did not have enough money to accomplish what it was they were supposed to do. I, on the other hand, do not necessarily accept that there is a correlation between the amounts of money a government agency may spend on a particular program and whether that program was successful.
When it comes to education, we constantly hear that more funding is the answer to educational shortfalls. School boards across the nation always seem to be looking to federal and state governments as well as local taxpayers to increase the funding of various educational programs because they believe they are needed to properly educate our children. As we examine spending on education, however, it is interesting to note that in a recent analysis, as reported in the Deseret News, New York spent $13,547 per capita on education (highest of all the states) yet it only ranked 24 among all states in educational accomplishment based upon average ACT and SAT scores. Utah spent $4,993 per capita on education (had the lowest per capita educational spending) and yet it ranked 13 among the states based upon average ACT and SAT scores. Minnesota spent $8,674 per capita on education and had the highest ACT and SAT scores of all the states. Given such, I find myself having to ask how much of a correlation there might be between what is spent on a child's education and how much he/she learns at school.
During a recent meeting of the Minot School Board, it was reported that during fiscal year 2010-2011 the average "per pupil cost" of teaching an elementary school student was $9,317.92. That would mean that in an elementary school classroom of 22 students, the Minot School District spent $204,994.24. Hypothetically speaking, if the wages and benefits of an elementary school teacher in an average Minot School District classroom were $60,000, the wages and benefits of the teacher's aide in that same classroom were $30,000 and other costs associated with that classroom were $15,000, there would be about $100,000 left to help pay for other general administrative/educational expenses. Given this hypothetical, in an elementary school consisting of 20 classrooms, there would be $105,000 to cover direct costs associated with each classroom and roughly $2 million available to cover all the school's general administrative/educational expenses. If properly spent, is this not enough money to adequately support an elementary school in the Minot Public School District?