How Much Do Philadelphia Schools Spend?

Following Matt’s appearance on WHYY yesterday morning, we’ve received questions over our calculation on Philadelphia school district spending per student.

The error was ours.  Based on the latest spending data from annual financial reports collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), for the 2010-11 school year, the Philadelphia School District spent $2.9 billion. But this total includes payments to charter schools, not just for students in district schools.

There was some confusion because of the difficulty in reading PDE data.  On the spending spreadsheet PDE provides, there are two tabs: One with total spending, and one with “per ADM” (average daily membership), which gives the average number of traditional public and charter school students enrolled per day in the  district. 

The tab with totals shows spending by school districts, charter schools, technical schools, and special venture schools, and adds them up to get a “Grand Total.”  However, this “Grand Total” includes double counting, as it includes school district payments to charter schools in the school district total and in the charter school total.  

In contrast the “per ADM” tab displays only school districts, yet includes charter and specialty school spending and enrollment in the district total.   The tab shows Philadelphia spent $14,132 per ADM, but this includes charter school spending and enrollment. 

However, charter schools spend and receive significantly less than district schools. Based on expenditure and fall enrollment data, Philadelphia charter schools spent an average of $12,794 in 2010-11. Assuming all Philadelphia charter school funding came from the Philadelphia school district (this is not the case, as charter schools have other revenue sources) and with fall enrollment of more 166,000, Philadelphia spent more than $14,318 per student in district-run schools.

Because of the assumption that all charter funding is included in the district spending, this figure  underestimates the total spending per student in district schools, but it is closer to the true spending figure than the total we used previously.

We regret the error.

Total Expenditures Fall Enrollment* Spending Per Student
Philadelphia SD Total $2,901,754,978 206,989 $14,018.88
Philadelphia Charter Schools $520,935,819 40,717 $12,794.06
Philadelphia District-run Schools $2,380,819,159 166,272 $14,318.82
*PDE Financial Data show Average Daily Membership of 205,331.7 district-wide, for a spending per ADM of $14,132.

PDE Summary of Annual Financial Reports 

Enrollment Public School