Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Comparing the cost of educating high school students

Local school spending continues to be rightly scrutinized given declining enrollments and tightening revenue sources. In our case, a widening gap between estimated and actual tuition at Newton High School is being addressed now in light of a new legislative bill to cap increases at 2% in future years. Our send-receive agreements are being revised to clarify communication intended to assist all parties in planning their finances more effectively. Andover and Green have also announced they will be investigating a grade 9-12 regionalization, evidently due to ongoing concerns about high school costs.

So, how does the cost of educating students at Newton High School compare to other high schools? The following table is an adaptation of the actual budgetary per pupil costs published last spring in the New Jersey Herald, which came from publicly available data in the NJDOE’s Taxpayer’s Guide to Education Spending. Newton High School’s actual tuition amounts for 2012-13 and 2013-14 are added for comparison.

    Regional High School Districts 2012-13     K-12 Districts 2012-13
    High Point


    Wallkill Valley

    Newton HS tuition (turf field included)

    Lenape Valley

    Newton HS tuition 2013-14

    In this "apples-to-apples" comparison, the tuition rate paid by Andover and Green with the turf field project included as a one-time cost is still quite comparable to the costs at other high school-only districts in the county. Again, this is a fair comparison as transportation and other unique costs are excluded: these are the operating costs common to all districts. 

    When 2013-14 spending data become available for all districts, we will likely find that per pupil costs in the regional high schools have increased, while Newton High School’s tuition will easily be the lowest in the group.  In fact, Newton High School’s actual tuition from 2011-12 to 2013-14 went up by an average of just 2.5% per year.

    High school per pupil costs can also be inferred from the county’s other K-12 districts. High school spending is typically higher than K-8 due to the nature of the curricular and extracurricular programs. Therefore, Newton High School’s tuition of $15,410 is certainly lower than the high school costs in at least two of the other three K-12 districts. This is especially impressive when one considers that Newton’s free and reduced lunch count is approaching 50% of its resident student population.

    Let's check back this spring when the new Taxpayer's Guide to Education Spending comes out. The cost to attend Newton High School for 2013-14 will likely prove to have been the lowest of all high schools in the county. 

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