Public School Data Doesn’t Take a Summer Vacation

PolicyMap has just updated a whole bunch of publicly-available school district data from two sources: the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and the Census’s Public School Finance system. NCES tracks data on school district populations, while the Census provides information on district finances: revenue sources as well as expenditures.

Much of the data found in the Education tab on PolicyMap has just been updated to 2013. We’ve also updated Free and Reduced Price Lunch recipients by school district. Two highlights from this data are updated graduation rates and a brand new indicator: net revenue by school district.

Average freshman graduation rates have been updated to 2009-2010. These data are calculated by NCES and are released on a different schedule than the rest of our school district-level public data. Average freshman graduation rate is calculated by dividing the total number of diploma recipients in a given year by the average membership of the 8th grade class 4 years prior, the 9th grade class 3 years prior, and the 10th grade class 2 years prior. When using these estimates, it’s important to distinguish graduation rates from dropout and completion rates, as many people take more time to graduate high school. Dropout rates are not provided by NCES.

Revenue varies greatly across school districts, depending on local taxes, state allocations, and qualification for federal programs. Looking at revenue can give a sense of a district’s budget. However, revenues often differ from the amount spent on education: teacher salaries, administrative costs, instructional materials. Many districts’ spending outpaces revenue, meaning the district has to dip into capital reserves or go into debt to cover their costs. Conversely, some districts spend less than their total revenue on educational operations. While looking at total revenue and total expenditures is important, looking at net revenue can tell us a great deal about a district’s funding compared to its costs. The top and bottom school districts nationwide for net revenue in the 2012-2013 school year are as follows:

Positive Net Revenues Negative Net Revenues
1 Montgomery County Public Schools, MD $265,296,000 New York City Department Of Education, NY -$1,536,179,000
2 DeKalb County School District, GA $181,005,000 Philadelphia City School District, PA -$884,083,000
3 Orleans Parish School District, LA $141,927,000 Chicago Public School District 299, IL -$356,140,000
4 Prince George’s County Public Schools, MD $131,379,000 Fairfax County Public Schools, VA -$203,190,000
5 Clark County School District, NV $126,580,000 Granite School District, UT -$143,140,000

The magnitude of the revenue difference in both the best-funded and worst-funded districts is proportional to the size of the district. Some of the largest districts in the country are represented both at the top and bottom of the rankings, but are these really the districts with the best and worst budgets in the country? Per pupil, net revenue averages out to a total of $1,783 in “surplus” revenue for each of Montgomery County’s 149,000 elementary and secondary students, and a deficit of $1,552 for each of the 990,000 students in New York City. Compare this to the districts with the highest and lowest net revenue per pupil: Glenwood Plantation, Maine is a district with one student in 2012-2013 with surplus revenue of $17,373,000, and Loraine Independent School District in Texas has negative net revenue of $10,981,000, averaging to $81,948 for each of its 134 students. When looking at net revenue per student, New York City and Montgomery County end up squarely in the top and bottom tenth of the rankings, but no longer top the charts. Check out our public school finance data to see where your local district ranks.