The New Jersey Taxpayer’s Guide to Education Spending just came out with its most recent numbers. On average, the budgetary cost per New Jersey student (minus pension, social security, medical, debt service) totaled $18,208 per student during the 2021-2022 school year, an increase of $1,385, or 8.2 percent from the 2020-2021 school year. “This guide,” said Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan, “can be a helpful first step in discussions that residents have with their local school officials about school-spending needs.”
The guide (available in Excel sheets for each indicator) is organized by district size (number of students), district configuration (K-6, K-8, 9-12, etc.), and type of district: traditional, vocational, special services, charter/renaissance. Here are some highlights from the database.
- Among K-6 districts, the spendthrift was Milford Boro (Hunterdon) at $32,409 and the skinflint was East Greenwich Twp (Gloucester) at $14,416. Why is Milford’s cost per pupil that high? Easy: at last count there were 49 students enrolled in this “school district” (consolidation, anyone?) while East Greenwich has 1,165 students. Also, there are fewer expenses associated with a younger group of students: no need for chemistry and biology labs or varsity sports. Still, $14K is pretty slim pickings.
- Among K-8 districts, North Wildwood City (Cape May) was on top at $44,441 per student and at the bottom was Delanco Twp (Burlington) at $14,289. North Wildwood has only 164 students but Delanco is also tiny with only 361. Why the discrepancy? Jersey Shore towns, with their expensive second homes, get whacked by property taxes; for an excellent explanation, see here from the Wall Street Journal.
- Among K-12 districts with fewer than 1,800 students, once again Asbury Park gets the award for profligacy at $27,977 per student, much low than the $40K a few years ago but that still twice as much as the low-spender in this category, Clayton Boro (Gloucester) at $14,114 per student.
- As we get to larger districts, the cost per pupil starts to come down: Ramsey Boro and Hopewell, both K-12 and between 1,800-3,500 students, spend about $23.5K per student, the most in its category. Lindenwold Boro in Camden County spends only $13,386 per student.
- For our K-12 districts with over 3,500 students: Teaneck spends $26,096 (it’s tiny), Newark spends $19,895, Trenton spends $19,278, Lakewood spends $15,204, and the lowest-spending Edison is $13,401.
- Special services spend much more because they serve students with disabilities, often more severe than those who remain in their home district. The average is $71,303 per student. Vocational districts spend far less at $19K.
- But for a bargain price? Public charter schools, most in the neediest districts where traditional cost per pupil is far higher. (Blame New Jersey’s terribly outdated school funding formula which allows districts to keep some of the money intended for students whose parents choose an alternative public school; for more information, click the image below.) The average cost per student in a charter or renaissance school is $15,508.
- So, for instance, while the state spends almost $20,000 for Newark district students, North Star Academy (with far better outcomes for students who are needier than those in the traditional district) costs only $15,469. Paul Robeson Humanities Charter School in Trenton spends $5,000 less ($14,960) than district schools. Central Jersey College Prep in Somerset spends $13,827, $6,000 less than taxpayers spend in Somerset Boro.
- What do these three charter schools have in common? To please NJEA executives, the Murphy Administration reverseed previously-approved expansions. Your tax dollars at work.