Jun 7


Buffalo-areas schools spending about $28,000 per student

Costs in Erie and Niagara counties range from $33,953 to $22,496. Cost drivers include low enrollments and a large share of students requiring special services.

Thirty-nine school budgets totaling $4 billion were recently approved in Erie and Niagara counties for the upcoming school year. The money will educate some 138,000 public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The individual budgets range from a low of $17.7 million in North Collins, the smallest school district, with just 564 students, to a high of almost $1 billion in the largest district, Buffalo public schools, with some 30,000 students. (Charter schools in the Buffalo area, with some 12,000 students, are not included in this analysis.)

We looked at per pupil spending - total budget divided by enrollment. A few districts spend less than $24,000 per student, a few spend more than $33,000 and the majority fall in between. The average is $28,135 per pupil.

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We reviewed enrollment and the number of economically disadvantaged students as well as those with learning or other disabilities, looking for trends to explain why some districts spend more than others to educate each student. We couldn't draw definitive conclusions, but noticed the percent of students with disabilities - often requiring smaller class size and additional staff - seems to be a key factor.

A few observations of note:

  • Some of the wealthiest school districts, including Clarence and Williamsville, have some of the lowest per-pupil spending. These districts tend to have fewer economically disadvantaged and learning or otherwise disabled students.
  • Some districts with the highest per pupil costs, including Buffalo and Gowanda, have relatively high rates of economically disadvantaged and students with learning or other disabilities. One exception is the Akron school district, whose above- average spending is tied to a one-time transportation facility expansion project.
  • The smallest districts, particularly those with fewer than 1,300 students, tend to have higher per- pupil costs.
  • Declining enrollment is sometimes a factor in higher per-pupil spending.

Most school districts are funded primarily by property taxes and state aid. Some urban districts, including Buffalo and Niagara Falls, rely primarily on the state for their operating revenue.

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