John Locke Update / Research Newsletter

Spending and student performance among NC school districts

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Welcome

In an effort to disseminate basic information about North Carolina’s public schools, this week’s newsletter lists per pupil expenditures and student performance results for all 115 school districts in the state.

CommenTerry

Last week, the NC Department of Public Instruction released financial data for the 2014-15 school year.  In the table below, I included per pupil expenditure figures and (composite) grade-level math and reading proficiency percentages for students in grades 3-8.

Some highlights include:

  • The state’s average per-pupil expenditure totaled $9,182 last year.  That amount is the product of multiple revenue streams, including state ($5,638), federal ($1,005), local ($2,133), and 5-year average capital ($406) dollars.
  • As one would expect, the state average masks huge variability in district spending. On the low end, Surry County Schools spends an average of $7,300 a year, while Hyde County Schools spends on average $17,600 per child. Although Surry’s expenditures are underwhelming compared to their peers, their students outperform Hyde’s on state reading and math tests.
  • Last year, 85 of North Carolina’s 115 school districts spent more than $9,000/student on operating and capital expenses, and no district spent less than $7,300 per student.
  • With the exception of charter and specialty schools, the state does not report per pupil expenditures by school.
  • There is no significant relationship between total per pupil expenditures and EOG math results (r = 0.0167) or EOG reading results (r = -0.0005).  (Note: These correlation coefficients are the product of a very simplistic analysis and do not take into account numerous district, school, and classroom variables.)

It is important to remember that the amount spent per student is not necessarily a reflection of quality or a guarantee of competence.  Money matters insofar as it is used to cultivate productive educational environments. Regrettably, some districts are more successful at doing so than others.

2014-15 District Expenditures and Student Performance

School District

Operating
Per Pupil
Expenditures

Capital
Per Pupil
(5 Year
Average)

Total Per Pupil
Expenditures
(Operating +
Capital)

Total Per Pupil Expenditures Rank

EOG Math Grades 3-8
(Percent Grade Level Proficient)

EOG Reading Grades 3-8
(Percent Grade Level Proficient)

 STATE TOTAL

 $8,776.00

 $406.20

 $9,182.20

N/A

52.2

56.3

Alamance-Burlington

 $8,317.00

 $175.21

 $8,492.21

101

45.1

50.7

Alexander 

 $8,435.00

 $136.90

 $8,571.90

97

50.7

61.0

Alleghany 

 $11,793.00

 $318.26

 $12,111.26

11

58.0

64.7

Anson 

 $10,526.00

 $182.46

 $10,708.46

29

34.3

40.3

Ashe 

 $9,846.00

 $918.97

 $10,764.97

27

59.3

64.7

Asheboro 

 $8,974.00

 $248.69

 $9,222.69

73

51.9

50.3

Asheville 

 $11,260.00

 $2,143.27

 $13,403.27

4

62.4

65.8

Avery 

 $11,353.00

 $364.18

 $11,717.18

16

60.7

63.3

Beaufort 

 $9,318.00

 $245.15

 $9,563.15

58

47.5

51.1

Bertie 

 $12,055.00

 $260.24

 $12,315.24

10

30.4

37.1

Bladen 

 $9,380.00

 $236.68

 $9,616.68

57

34.4

42.8

Brunswick 

 $9,385.00

 $454.55

 $9,839.55

50

47.0

55.3

Buncombe 

 $8,914.00

 $389.73

 $9,303.73

67

57.4

60.1

Burke 

 $8,478.00

 $214.29

 $8,692.29

90

57.7

62.4

Cabarrus 

 $7,912.00

 $342.04

 $8,254.04

112

55.6

61.3

Caldwell 

 $8,819.00

 $467.35

 $9,286.35

69

49.6

58.6

Camden 

 $9,206.00

 $219.29

 $9,425.29

62

53.5

72.3

Carteret 

 $9,335.00

 $367.41

 $9,702.41

53

60.1

67.2

Caswell 

 $9,413.00

 $255.60

 $9,668.60

54

37.1

46.2

Catawba 

 $8,405.00

 $320.97

 $8,725.97

89

55.6

57.8

Chapel-Hill/Carrboro

 $11,349.00

 $1,011.04

 $12,360.04

9

73.1

76.5

Charlotte-Mecklenburg 

 $8,381.00

 $104.49

 $8,485.49

102

56.9

56.4

Chatham 

 $9,650.00

 $737.09

 $10,387.09

36

51.8

57.2

Cherokee 

 $9,905.00

 $267.27

 $10,172.27

43

47.9

60.8

Clay 

 $10,744.00

 $207.35

 $10,951.35

23

48.3

55.6

Cleveland 

 $9,260.00

 $583.50

 $9,843.50

49

52.3

58.1

Clinton 

 $8,851.00

 $140.55

 $8,991.55

85

59.2

58.1

Columbus 

 $9,252.00

 $554.47

 $9,806.47

51

39.3

46.6

Craven 

 $8,357.00

 $91.85

 $8,448.85

104

54.9

56.1

Cumberland 

 $8,406.00

 $281.62

 $8,687.62

91

46.5

53.9

Currituck 

 $9,241.00

 $417.25

 $9,658.25

55

54.1

64.7

Dare 

 $11,005.00

 $265.06

 $11,270.06

20

57.2

63.4

Davidson 

 $7,790.00

 $475.20

 $8,265.20

111

55.2

57.5

Davie 

 $8,602.00

 $428.61

 $9,030.61

82

59.2

62.6

Duplin 

 $8,780.00

 $245.92

 $9,025.92

83

38.0

43.3

Durham 

 $10,634.00

 $1,152.19

 $11,786.19

15

39.2

43.1

Edenton-Chowan 

 $10,009.00

 $23.29

 $10,032.29

45

45.8

52.4

Edgecombe 

 $9,528.00

 $238.19

 $9,766.19

52

30.0

31.5

Elkin 

 $9,835.00

 $853.66

 $10,688.66

30

61.4

73.0

Forsyth 

 $8,883.00

 $637.01

 $9,520.01

59

49.2

52.0

Franklin 

 $8,820.00

 $829.21

 $9,649.21

56

41.4

51.0

Gaston 

 $8,069.00

 $586.25

 $8,655.25

92

43.9

49.3

Gates 

 $11,244.00

 $107.17

 $11,351.17

19

48.1

54.8

Graham 

 $11,857.00

 $513.82

 $12,370.82

8

49.6

57.4

Granville 

 $8,809.00

 $654.89

 $9,463.89

60

35.1

46.2

Greene 

 $9,725.00

 $1,112.83

 $10,837.83

25

30.5

35.9

Guilford 

 $9,372.00

 $831.42

 $10,203.42

42

48.5

51.6

Halifax 

 $11,777.00

 $133.89

 $11,910.89

14

30.1

34.5

Harnett 

 $7,945.00

 $254.75

 $8,199.75

113

39.8

45.5

Haywood 

 $9,281.00

 $72.57

 $9,353.57

66

65.8

66.2

Henderson 

 $8,311.00

 $71.46

 $8,382.46

108

65.1

66.3

Hertford 

 $10,516.00

 $290.34

 $10,806.34

26

28.5

34.9

Hickory 

 $8,321.00

 $651.07

 $8,972.07

86

46.8

51.6

Hoke 

 $8,341.00

 $141.54

 $8,482.54

103

45.4

45.9

Hyde 

 $17,338.00

 $274.57

 $17,612.57

1

53.0

55.3

Iredell-Statesville

 $8,178.00

 $216.61

 $8,394.61

107

53.2

57.8

Jackson 

 $9,503.00

 $361.17

 $9,864.17

48

43.1

54.5

Johnston 

 $8,119.00

 $259.61

 $8,378.61

109

52.6

59.4

Jones 

 $12,528.00

 $476.81

 $13,004.81

5

47.4

56.0

Kannapolis 

 $8,740.00

 $496.32

 $9,236.32

72

36.2

43.1

Lee 

 $8,276.00

 $318.30

 $8,594.30

95

49.1

50.3

Lenoir 

 $8,916.00

 $136.97

 $9,052.97

80

33.3

44.5

Lexington 

 $9,725.00

 $501.32

 $10,226.32

39

49.3

43.8

Lincoln 

 $7,974.00

 $431.86

 $8,405.86

105

61.9

63.8

Macon 

 $9,020.00

 $991.59

 $10,011.59

46

48.9

58.2

Madison 

 $9,805.00

 $296.22

 $10,101.22

44

57.0

62.2

Martin 

 $10,797.00

 $331.46

 $11,128.46

21

33.7

44.6

McDowell 

 $9,105.00

 $345.02

 $9,450.02

61

45.8

55.7

Mitchell 

 $10,287.00

 $431.31

 $10,718.31

28

50.2

59.2

Montgomery 

 $10,221.00

 $33.32

 $10,254.32

38

46.0

44.8

Moore 

 $8,442.00

 $89.12

 $8,531.12

100

54.4

62.2

Mooresville 

 $8,465.00

 $295.52

 $8,760.52

88

67.4

68.8

Mount Airy

 $9,933.00

 $659.62

 $10,592.62

32

62.2

61.9

Nash-Rocky Mount

 $8,576.00

 $581.42

 $9,157.42

76

35.2

42.8

New Hanover

 $9,018.00

 $343.10

 $9,361.10

65

60.3

62.1

Newton-Conover 

 $9,029.00

 $268.27

 $9,297.27

68

44.6

47.1

Northampton 

 $11,593.00

 $469.42

 $12,062.42

12

21.3

30.4

Onslow 

 $8,135.00

 $139.49

 $8,274.49

110

45.3

55.2

Orange 

 $10,132.00

 $531.89

 $10,663.89

31

57.0

59.6

Pamlico 

 $11,774.00

 $607.23

 $12,381.23

7

46.5

52.7

Pasquotank 

 $9,064.00

 $198.77

 $9,262.77

71

40.4

48.6

Pender 

 $8,274.00

 $280.10

 $8,554.10

98

53.7

56.4

Perquimans 

 $10,636.00

 $218.70

 $10,854.70

24

44.7

46.9

Person 

 $8,941.00

 $200.30

 $9,141.30

77

50.5

52.9

Pitt 

 $8,382.00

 $396.85

 $8,778.85

87

48.3

50.4

Polk 

 $11,595.00

 $317.85

 $11,912.85

13

69.4

73.1

Randolph 

 $7,915.00

 $184.09

 $8,099.09

114

48.4

50.7

Richmond 

 $8,820.00

 $398.23

 $9,218.23

74

46.7

45.6

Roanoke Rapids

 $9,045.00

 $368.07

 $9,413.07

63

48.4

47.8

Robeson 

 $9,074.00

 $334.58

 $9,408.58

64

30.8

33.6

Rockingham 

 $8,784.00

 $330.57

 $9,114.57

78

48.6

50.2

Rowan-Salisbury 

 $8,502.00

 $108.66

 $8,610.66

93

35.4

43.4

Rutherford 

 $9,209.00

 $73.23

 $9,282.23

70

52.1

57.8

Sampson 

 $8,864.00

 $327.91

 $9,191.91

75

55.7

58.2

Scotland 

 $10,094.00

 $270.32

 $10,364.32

37

48.7

50.7

Stanly 

 $8,371.00

 $221.86

 $8,592.86

96

50.3

57.4

Stokes 

 $9,361.00

 $1,129.21

 $10,490.21

34

54.6

56.5

Surry 

 $7,150.00

 $196.87

 $7,346.87

115

59.2

61.2

Swain 

 $11,132.00

 $430.88

 $11,562.88

18

48.8

55.5

Thomasville 

 $10,102.00

 $362.86

 $10,464.86

35

46.5

37.9

Transylvania 

 $10,418.00

 $536.46

 $10,954.46

22

59.0

66.9

Tyrrell 

 $14,787.00

 $212.86

 $14,999.86

2

30.4

48.2

Union 

 $8,165.00

 $234.54

 $8,399.54

106

69.8

71.1

Vance 

 $9,810.00

 $90.63

 $9,900.63

47

40.2

42.6

Wake 

 $8,363.00

 $673.87

 $9,036.87

81

63.2

65.7

Warren 

 $11,252.00

 $360.90

 $11,612.90

17

30.2

37.9

Washington 

 $12,172.00

 $267.94

 $12,439.94

6

29.7

38.6

Watauga 

 $10,030.00

 $187.96

 $10,217.96

40

65.4

71.1

Wayne 

 $8,197.00

 $335.25

 $8,532.25

99

40.7

46.3

Weldon 

 $13,768.00

 $349.82

 $14,117.82

3

18.0

26.8

Whiteville 

 $9,879.00

 $325.90

 $10,204.90

41

53.9

54.2

Wilkes 

 $8,677.00

 $329.02

 $9,006.02

84

50.3

56.3

Wilson 

 $8,468.00

 $138.61

 $8,606.61

94

40.6

48.5

Yadkin 

 $8,938.00

 $155.65

 $9,093.65

79

54.0

57.7

Yancey 

 $10,178.00

 $332.77

 $10,510.77

33

62.4

63.7

Acronym of the Week

PPE — per pupil expenditure

Quote of the Week

"In our survey, we found 116 studies that explored the link between per-pupil spending and student outcomes. Higher spending was associated with higher student performance only 32 percent of the time, after adjusting for student background and other factors mostly or entirely outside the control of schools."

– John Hood and Terry Stoops, "Educational Freedom Works: Scholarly research shows gains from school choice and competition," John Locke Foundation Spotlight Report No. 454, May 20, 2014, p. 4.

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As Vice President for Research, Terry oversees the research team’s writing and analysis across the spectrum of public policy issues. He specializes in pre-K-12 education. Before joining the Locke Foundation, he worked as the program assistant for the Child Welfare… ...

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