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Louisiana School Board Association

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Hear the Echoes # 7 - Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hear the Echoes No. 7

Are Louisiana education dollars spent effectively?

A new study from the Center for American Progress suggests that only 7 of Louisiana’s 68 school districts achieve high returns on investment in public education. These returns are seen as a measure of the productivity of almost every major district in the nation.   By productivity, the researchers mean how much learning a district produces for every dollar spent, after controlling for factors such as cost of living and students in poverty.

Those seven highest rated districts are:  Acadia, Ascension, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Livingston, Rapides, Vernon and Zachary Community.  Another 15 districts fall in the second highest group of districts in ROI.  They include:  Avoyelles, Bossier, Catahoula, City of Monroe, Grant, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Ouachita,  St. James, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Vermillion,  and Washington.

Nine districts are presented as being among the lowest in return on investment.  They are:  Bienville, Desoto, East Carroll, Iberville, Jefferson, Madison, Red River, Richland, and Tensas.

The report was rendered after a year-long effort to study the efficiency of the nation’s public education system.  After adjusting for inflation national  education spending per student has nearly tripled over the past four decades, the study reports.  But while some states and districts have spent their additional dollars wisely, and thus seen increases in student outcomes, overall student achievement has largely remained flat.

At a time when states, all across America, are projecting more than $100 billion in budget shortfalls, educators need to be able to show that education dollars produce improving outcomes. 

According to the latest U.S. Department of Education Digest of Education Statistics (Table 83) 48.8% of all school employees are teachers.  This ranks Louisiana with the 34th highest employee/teacher ratio in the nation. 

In 2008-09, the mean SAT scores of college-bound seniors in Louisiana were 563 in reading, 558 in math, and 555 in critical writing. 

Only 17 states produced higher median scores in the reading test component of SAT.  Only 16 states registered higher median scores in math; and 16 states exceeded the Louisiana median in critical writing . (Table 146 Pg. 212 Chapter 2) 

The national mean scores on the SAT in reading were 501 in reading, 515 in math and 493 in critical writing.

Per capita spending for school administration in Louisiana for 2005-06 was $444; while 36 states spend a greater amount per pupil on school administration.  General administration spending in Louisiana amounted to another $203 per pupil ranking it 28th in the nation (Table 184 Pg 263).

Current expenditures per pupil in average daily attendance in 2006-07 amounted to $10,008 (Table 186) ranking Louisiana at 93% of the national average, ranking the state 28th highest average among the 51 jurisdictions measured.

With about six percent of per pupil spending devoted to administration at the state, district and school level, it will be difficult to reduce the administration component of cost.  Just how much the Progress researchers allowed for differences in percent of pupils in poverty, and how they accounted for variables such as school bus transportation is unclear. 

Nevertheless, findings in the new report suggests that it is not unreasonable for local education agencies to look more intensively at strategies that yield higher ACT/SAT scores, graduation rates, and other measures of improving outcomes in order to justify legislative requests for adequate funding to achieve state educational mandates.


Don Whittinghill

LSBA Consultant