By Morris B. Pongratz
Because the Los Alamos Public Schools system depends heavily on the “DOE $8 million,” a headline on page C1 of the Tuesday, July 3, 2012 Albuquerque Journal caught my eye.
The headline “Federal Funds Key for Schools” was for a column written by Jenny Kane of the Farmington Daily News.
The article was based on a recently released United States Census Bureau report entitled “Public Education Finances: 2010” (http://www.census.gov/govs/school/) written by Mark Dixon.
The report contains Public Elementary–Secondary Education Finance Data from the 2010 census for the 2010 fiscal year.
Census Bureau data has high credibility. I had expected to see the usual diatribe about the $8 million LAPS gets (indirectly now) from the DOE.
To my surprise the newspaper article did not even mention Los Alamos!
The education finance data include revenues, expenditures, debt and assets [cash and security holdings] of elementary and secondary public school systems.
Statistics cover school systems in all states, and include the District of Columbia. Data are available in viewable tables and downloadable files.
I have down loaded an Excel file containing the “Individual Unit Tables” – Individual unit tables containing data for selected revenue, expenditure, and debt data items for all school systems.
The file contains over 65 fields of information ranging from the school district name and enrollment to the per pupil cost of school administration.
To keep the file size manageable I deleted all but the New Mexico data.
I realize that LAPS strives to be more than just the best public school system in New Mexico, but this is a beginning look at comparables.
In this brief article I have presented some of the data that was of interest to me (and maybe you.)
Figure 1 shows the percentage of total school district funds that come from the federal government. Los Alamos (shown in red) ranks 16 in the state in the percentage of school funds coming from the federal government. We are tied with the Pojoaque school district at 25.5 percent of our funds coming from the feds. This figure shows only the top 25 of the 89 New Mexico school districts. I was surprised to see that we get a smaller percentage of our money from the feds than neighboring districts Jemez Valley, Bernalillo and Las Vegas West. In New Mexico public schools get most of their funds from the state through a “funding formula.”
Figure 2 shows funds to school districts from the state of New Mexico as a function of school enrollment. For this figure the enrollment range shown is limited to schools with enrollment within a factor of three of the LAPS enrollment. The blue trend line is a least squares fit for all districts with enrollment with in a factor of 10 of the LAPS enrollment. The funds to LAPS are shown with the red symbol. The LAPS funding is slightly below the trend line.
Figure 3 shows the percentage of total funds that come from local sources as a function of enrollment. The blue trend line shows that typical districts get about 13 percent of their funds from local sources, mostly property taxes in New Mexico. The red symbol shows that Los Alamos gets about 22 percent from local sources well above average for New Mexico.
Figure 4 shows the total per pupil cost versus the number of students enrolled in the district for NM school districts with enrollment comparable to Los Alamos. Clearly the cost per pupil is larger for districts with lower enrollment. Los Alamos is indicated with the red symbol. The LAPS cost per pupil is slightly above the trend line.
Figure 5 shows the salary and wage cost to a district per pupil enrolled as a function of the number of pupils enrolled in the district for New Mexico school districts with enrollment comparable to Los Alamos. Los Alamos is indicated with the red symbol. The LAPS salary and wage cost is clearly above the trend line (as it should be because of the higher cost of living in Los Alamos.)
Figure 6 shows the cost of school administration per pupil enrolled as a function of the number of pupils enrolled in the district for NM school districts with enrollment comparable to Los Alamos. Los Alamos is indicated with the red symbol. The LAPS administrative cost is clearly below the trend line. Since our salaries and benefits are above average LAPS must be operating with fewer administrators than normal.
- LAPS is not unique in the state in terms of the percentage of funds from the federal government.
- The percentage of LAPS funds coming from local sources is well above average for the state.
- LAPS funding from the state is consistent with our enrollment.
- The percentage of LAPS funds spent on salaries and wages is higher than average.
- For LAPS the cost of administration per pupil is less than average for the state.