A Note on Philadelphia School Spending

Last week, we released a summary of spending, enrollment and staffing trends in the Philadelphia School District over the past decade.

After this release, school officials and advocates have claimed our data is misleading because total spending and revenue numbers include funding for charter schools, whereas enrollment figures represent only the district. 

But our analysis is not comparing total spending to enrollment, which measures the number of students in a school district as of October every school year. Rather, we look at total spending per “Average Daily Membership,” which measures instead the average number of students enrolled over the course of the year, in both district and charter schools.

The spending per ADM comes directly from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. As total spending is up, even as the ADM declined over the past decade, spending per ADM increased from $9,299 to $14,361. This is a 21 percent jump, even after adjusting for inflation.

And while ADM does include charter school students, charter schools actually get less per student than the district-run schools.

To illustrate this we can estimate how much we spend in Philadelphia’s district schools alone. To do so, we can look at the “tuition schedule”, which calculates payments to charter and other schools. Using this, we can approximate that the Philadelphia school district spent more than $15,300 per student in district schools in 2012-13.

School District of Philadelphia Spending Data




Total Expenditures



Average Daily Membership (ADM, includes charters)



Spending Per ADM



Payments to Charters and Others Schools



District Direct Spending 



District Enrollment



District Spending Per Student



Source: PA Department of Education

Unfortunately, the state data on “tuition payments” does not go back to 2002-03 as the rest of our analysis did. But the data from 2006-07 through last year also shows an increase in direct spending on district students, excluding charter school payment. 

As the chart below illustrates, Philadelphia spending per district student has risen over the past 7 years, despite a dip in 2011-12, by almost $4,000 per student.

Philadelphia school spending per student