School budgeting 101
These graphics explain who pays for what in Clark County schools.
Statewide, about 4 percent of all spending in schools goes to running buses. That amounted to $386 million in 2009-10.
Like just about everything else in school financing, busing payments involve a very complex formula. It considers student counts, number of routes, distance of bus stops to schools and how much major transportation costs are expected to change over the school year.
Expenses for busing around Clark County range from $2 million in Camas to $10 million in the Evergreen district. In each case the state pays for about 60 percent and local levies make up the difference. No federal money goes to student transportation.
The state doesn’t pay districts by the hours that students spend in the classroom. But school days would be shorter if districts relied just on state law and money, local district officials said.
State law requires districts to provide 1,000 hours of classroom time in 180 school days. That comes out to 5 1/2 hours per day, which includes lunch. High school and middle school students are considered to be attending full time if they spend five hours in class per day.
Elementary school students are expected to spend four hours in class per day.
Currently all students — except kindergartners — go to class six hours per day.
The federal government covers the lion’s share of school lunch programs, by sending money and providing ingredients from the Department of Agriculture.
Ridgefield, for example, spends about $550,000 per year feeding students. Evergreen spends $6.3 million. The percentages above are for Evergreen. Battle Ground’s and Vancouver’s are very similar. Camas and Ridgefield get less federal support because they have fewer students living in poverty.
The local portion does not come from levies — it is the lunch ticket revenue.
MSOC stands for maintenance, supplies and operating costs. This sprawling category includes utility bills, textbooks, mowing the lawns, providing security and installing interactive whiteboards in classrooms, to name a few expenses.
Under the new funding model (see story), MSOC payments are scheduled to double by 2015.
And that’s a good thing, districts say, because their expenses are not covered now. Evergreen, for example, spent about $17.5 million on MSOC last school year, but only received about $12 million from the state.
Other districts’ percentages are similar. The feds don’t chip in for these costs, which means levy money is used to equip chemistry labs and keep the lights on.
Local districts would have more kids in classrooms if they relied only on state money.
Lowering classroom sizes means hiring more teachers. The three big districts in Clark County would have 10 percent fewer teachers if they didn’t spend levy money to hire more.
Evergreen pays more than 100 teachers’ salaries from its levy, Vancouver about 80 and Battle Ground 95.
Other teachers’ salaries are at least in part paid from federal money for special education, American Indian education, extra instruction for disadvantaged children, or other programs.
Generally, classroom sizes in Clark County are two or three students below what the state suggests in its new funding model.
This one’s not so complicated — there wouldn’t be any without local money.
Take band, for example. The state pays for the music teacher in band class during the regular school day.
But the state pays zero for the students to showcase their well-rehearsed skills in front of the public. Districts pay teachers out of levy money for the time they spend at after-school contests or performances. And they pay for the fuel and driver to get the band — or other extracurricular group — to the event.
Booster clubs — i.e. parents — usually pay for traveling costs to farther-away places.
Neither state nor feds pay a dime toward school athletic programs.
A small sliver of levy money goes to busing the teams to their games. Most of the transportation costs — and all of the expense for uniforms and other gear — comes out of the Associated Student Body account. That account is replenished from tickets sold at sporting events, fees paid by students and parents, and school fundraisers.
Salaries for coaches and assistants are paid out of levy money.
A small district’s ASB budget is about $350,000. Large districts’ ASBs take in and spend up to $4 million a year.
Some programs that are considered part of basic education are not paid out of the general apportionment to districts. Their budgets are calculated separately.
The illustration above represents an average of how special education is funded in Clark County. Evergreen spends $32 million on special education; Vancouver spends $23 million. All districts are left up to 20 percent short by the money they get from state and federal governments for special education.
Other programs, such as teaching English-language learners, are entirely paid for by the state and the feds. Special ed’s budget dwarfs other programs’, though.
About 60 percent of all school spending statewide goes to teacher salaries and benefits. This amounted to nearly $6 billion in 2009-10.
Aside from hiring additional teachers (see “Classroom size” panel), districts pay for some of each teacher’s salary, because the state doesn’t pay for the time teachers work outside of school hours.
A national study compared teacher salaries to those paid in 16 other careers that require similar levels of education and work loads. In most states, teachers made less than the other occupations. In Washington, they made about the same.
Non-teaching administrators’ salaries are heavily subsidized from levies, because the state gives districts the same amount of money for a janitor position as it does for a top manager. Without boosting the manager salaries out of local funds, districts would be unable to attract highly skilled employees.