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Per Capita Education Spending: How Do Reading and North Reading Compare?

Find out how Reading and North Reading per capita spending on education compares to 25 cities and towns in Massachusetts.

As the school year approaches, parents will hear about new investments in their local school system or, sometimes, cuts to teachers and budgets.

But how much do North Reading and Reading spend on education for each person in town—in financial terms, its per capita education spending?

The Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts public policy research organization, recently released a spreadsheet tool to accompany its new handbook, "Guide to Sound Fiscal Management for Municipalities." The spreadsheet tool allows anyone to compare how much a city or town spends on various services, and how much the city or town spends per capita.

Patch used the tool to compare 25 cities and towns in the area on per capita education spending, with the Pioneer Institute using figures from fiscal years 2009 through 2011 obtained from the state Department of Revenue's Division of Local Services.

North Reading has a higher per capita amount than Reading, and both are on the higher end of the 25 cities and towns used in the comparison. North Reading spends $1600 per person and Reading spends $1484.

North Reading's per capita education spending dropped in fiscal 2011 from the year before, but only by $6. Reading's spending dropped as well, by $7.

Note that per capita education spending is not the same as per pupil education spending. The former counts every person in town, while the latter only counts students in the school system.

Do these figures seem right to you? You can review the figures in the table below, and tell us what you think of the results in the comments section at the bottom of this article.

You can also download the Pioneer Institute's spreadsheet tool yourself and create your own comparisons. 

Per Capita Education Spending By City/Town

The data below were obtained from the Mass DOR Division of Local Services General Fund Expenditure Worksheets. The spending figures presented below are based on the general funds spent by a municipality on education. General funds cover only a portion of a pupil's education cost, according to the Pioneer Institute, and that portion varies widely among the state's cities and towns. Cities and towns are listed in alphabetical order.

 City/Town              FY09
FY10
FY11 State Median 1,296
1,300 1,251
Andover 1,777 1,794 1,850 Arlington 979 985 740 Belmont 1,452 1,393 1,218 Burlington 1,661 1,699 1,772 Cambridge 991 975 1,020 Chelmsford 1,295 1,301 1,359 Lexington 2,131 2,131 2,168 Lynnfield 1,696 1,659 1,687 Malden 893 907 828 Medford 792 778 669 Melrose 1,038 1,011 814 Middleton 1,476 1,564 1,570 North Andover 1,308 1,322 1,318 North Reading 1,393 1,606 1,600 Reading 1,556 1,491 1,484 Saugus 895 948 978 Somerville 611 621 538 Stoneham 1,033 1,050 1,009 Tewksbury 1,228 1,276 1,274 Wakefield 1,081 1,075 1,105 Waltham 997 1,000 1,007 Watertown 968 994 852 Wilmington 1,667 1,592 1,643 Winchester 1,492 1,485 1,569 Woburn 1,221 1,166 1,224
Rob August 21, 2012 at 03:01 PM
This statistic is irrelevant. The article should have compared the spending per student. The author of the article shouldn't have wasted our time.
Daniel DeMaina (Editor) August 21, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Thanks for the feedback Rob. I wrote an article earlier this year that included per pupil expenditures if you want to see those figures: http://melrose.patch.com/articles/melrose-teacher-salaries-how-do-they-compare If you'll indulge me, what makes per capita education spending irrelevant?
Joe Veno August 21, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Very interestimg. Thanks Rob.
Marci Bailey August 21, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I generally agree with Rob. Per capita spending, on its own, is not a meaningful statistic. Per capita spending speaks more to demographics than education spending if per pupil expenditures appear to be in line. (A town with 100% of households with school children would have a very high per capita spending while a town with 1% of households with school-age children should have a very low per capita number.) A reader might initially jump to the conclusion that high per capita spending means education costs are out of line, when in many towns, like North Reading, it means that there is a high number of school children as a percentage of the town's overall population. It would be much more informative to see a column with per pupil expenditures next to per capita spending.
Rob August 21, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Joe - I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic, or maybe this is just over your head... Dan - I think your other article should have explained to you why per capita education spending is irrelevant. In today's article, it would lead a reader to believe that Reading spends significantly more than Somerville for education ($1,484 vs $538 per capita). But your other article shows that Somerville actually spends alot more per pupil than Reading (16K vs 11K). Which statistic do you think is more relevant?
peter lucci August 21, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Rob, you are right on the money regarding Joe's comment, this discussion is over his head. Joe is the Reading/North Reading Patch bully, nothing more, nothing less. Both you and Marci have brought up excellent points, per capita education spending is not only irrelevant but also very misleading indeed.
Daniel DeMaina (Editor) August 21, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Rob: Thanks for the follow-up response. I think this article above is more about how municipal budgets breakdown, but I understand your point. Marci: Good idea. I'll consider putting together a column with per pupil expenditures next to per capita spending.
Mel Webster August 21, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Marci's comment is right on the money. North Reading has a higher percentage of school age children per household than most communities in the state. This is what makes it difficult to put together the school budget each year. We have fewer households, but more kids from those households in our schools. Fewer households means less property taxes collected. As for per pupil spending, for Fiscal year 2011, which is the latest year reported by the Mass. DESE, North Reading ranks in the bottom 25 percent in the state and is approximately $2,000 below the state average. Wee have improved significantly from several years ago, when we were 8th from the bottom.
Joe Veno August 22, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Rob, I was not being sarcastic. I agree with Marci also.

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