Government School Greed

On Tuesday, here in the People’s Republic of Minnesota, 99 school districts asked their residents to allow them to raise their property taxes in order to increase their budgets. This is even after the current and previous Governors have worked hard for “property tax relief.”

I did a little investigating to see what the financial situation is in the school district in which I reside. Fortunately, their levy referendum failed, so I don’t have to feel too bad about doing this a few days too late. According to the districts own publicly available financial report, on page 42, they claim a total district wide expenditure of $200,203,156 for the 2007-2008 school year. On page 140, they claim a total of 15,528 students for the same school year. That brings total, per pupil expenditures to $12, 893.04 district-wide.

On page 59, the district claims student-teacher ratios as follows:

  • 28.7-31.7 for elementary schools
  • 22.2 for middle schools
  • 25.7 for high schools

Taking the smallest of those, the middle schools, that comes to a total expenditure per classroom, per year of $286,225.49!! Again, that’s per classroom, and that’s the smallest number. If you take the largest average classroom in the district, the high end of the elementary schools, it comes to $408,709.37. Outrageous!!!

Where does all that money go? One can only imagine. The district claims in it’s pro-levy propaganda to only spend 4% on administration ($11,449.02 – $16,348.37 per classroom.) On page 141, they attempt to break down the expenditures per student (pupil).However, it should be noted that they only claim $10,553.55 per student – again, where they get this number is anyone’s guess, as the numbers I already outlined give you a $2339.49 per student discrepancy (off to a good start on showing where the money goes, aren’t we?) Anyway, they claim that for every student, 43% of the budget goes to “regular instruction”. I can only surmise that that means his teacher’s salary and benefits, as well as his share of the salaries and benefits of non-regular teachers, like Phy. Ed., music, and art teachers. Considering this only applies to the elementary level, because middle and high schools shuffle kids among regular instructors only, we’ll assume that for the most part we’re only talking about the teachers that a particular student sees on a daily basis, one per elementary kid and one per subject for the rest. That means that the average kid in the elementary schools is costing between $159,113.01 and $175,745.03 just in salaries for teachers for (their words) “regular instruction”.

Let’s look at the middle school level. The average class is costing $123,076.96!! This is the lowest number we’re going to come up with folks. Now, logically, since we are talking about “regular instruction”, that would imply that that is the average teacher’s salary and benefits. Now, you may be saying “hey, the average middle school kid sees 6 teachers in a day.” Yeah, but the average teacher then has 6 classes in a day, so the averages still work out. Is that what teachers make these days? If so, I need to go back to school and get a Masters in Education, because if I can make that much money in a school district in a first-ring suburb of a major metropolitan area, I can only imagine what the teachers in more affluent suburbs make. And they get summers off, as well as two weeks over Christmas, a week in the spring, every government (bank) holiday, and several more days set aside for “workshops” (which they strangely can’t find time to do in the summer). It sounds like a really good gig!!

Back to the subject, we accounted for 43% for salaries and benefits, and 4% for administration, what about the other 53%? They claim 10% (sticking with the lowest cost classroom – the middle school classroom) or $28,622.46 for “pupil support”, whatever that means; 5% or $14,311.23 for “instructional support” (again, whatever that means), and 5% or 14,311.23 for “district support”. We’re up to 73%, and we still haven’t gotten any clear indication where the money is going, other than a ton of money going to pay for the teacher. Every one of these expenditure categories they list should raise red flags, but none more than “Special education.” What does that mean? Am I to believe that out of every average class, $54,382.84 (19%) goes to kids with developmental disabilities? I can only imagine. What’s the percentage of the population that has such disabilities? If it’s 19%, then I am really out of touch with society, because that seems really high to me, as I have a hard time believing that 1 in 5 people need special attention in order to learn.

If I have confused you, I’m not surprised. I’m confused as well. All I could see is that there is an awful lot of money already being poured into my local school district. I have no reason that I live in a school district that is in any way out of the ordinary. In fact, the per-pupil expenditures in the neighboring Hopkins school district is $17,071.91, which is $4,178.87 more!!

I’m glad my property taxes will stay the same, at least for now. The only imaginable reason why they would need more money is because they have no wish to rectify the vast amounts of waste that they already have.

Also, in addition to the levy question, they were asking us to vote for school board members. There were 4 people running, trying to fill 3 seats. If I had known the odds of getting in were so good, I would have run myself and brought some accountability to the school board. In two years, the other three seats will be up, maybe I’ll run then.

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