James Lane (copy)

In 2019, James Lane, state superintendent of public instruction, speaks about “Virginia is for Learners.”

Virginians who want to know how much local, state and federal money is spent per pupil at their child’s school finally have a way to find out.

The Virginia Department of Education’s annual School Quality Profiles report, which has provided that information on a district level for decades, now includes the per-pupil expenditure at each of the state’s public schools for the first time due to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. It requires that states publish annual school-level per-pupil expenditures on their online school report cards, beginning with data for the 2018-2019 school year.

The report breaks down the total for each school to show how much it received at the school level and the district level in local, state and federal per-pupil funding. Those figures are then combined to create the total per-pupil figure for the school. The report also shows the district-wide per-pupil expenditure as well as the statewide per-pupil figure.

Adding the school-level information to the report provides transparency and promotes equity in the allocation of education funds, said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane in a news release. People can also compare those figures to a wealth of other data contained in each school’s profile, including accreditation, enrollment, student achievement assessments and college and career readiness.

A spot check of per-pupil expenditures at Stafford County’s five high schools, for example, finds that it ranged from $9,316 at Brooke Point to $10,859 at North Stafford during the 2018-19 school year. District-wide, the per-pupil expenditure was $9,946, compared to $12,111 statewide.

Brooke Point had a larger enrollment that year, 1,877 students compared to 1,693 at North Stafford, but both had a roughly similar percentage of students receiving advanced diplomas. The pie chart in the report shows 55.2 percent got an advanced diploma at Brooke Point and 55.6 percent got one at North Stafford. Brooke Point had a higher percentage of students graduate with a standard diploma, 38.3 percent compared to 36.8 percent at North Stafford, while North Stafford had a higher dropout rate. It was 6.4 percent compared to 5.1 percent at Brooke Point.

States were originally supposed to begin providing per-pupil spending for each public school in 2018, but the deadline was extended several times due to the complexity of the task.

“You’re talking about distilling per pupil expenditures down to the building level,” said VDOE spokesman Charles Pyle. “What kind of costs are you going to attribute to the school level and how are you going to determine those costs and how can this be done in sort of a uniform way around the country? That took several years, and the law realized that this was going to be a tremendous challenge for states.”

Virginia collaborated with other states to develop guidelines and uniform criteria for meeting the requirement. Its latest School Quality Profiles are found at https://schoolquality.virginia.gov/. Interactive charts are available under the Finance tab for each school that compare per-pupil spending for the selected school with per-pupil expenditures for the division and the state. Additional details are available by clicking the Show Data tab.

“Distilling per-pupil expenditure data down to the school level was a challenge for both the department and our school divisions,” Lane said. “But I believe it was a challenge well worth undertaking as parents and other members of the public are now able to see how local, state and federal funds flow to the building level. This new transparency will help inform important conversations across the state about equity in meeting the needs of all learners.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

cjett@freelancestar.com

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