Per Pupil Spending Decreased 6% over the Last 10 Years

Executive Summary:  Inflation-adjusted per pupil funding has decreased 6% over the last 10 years

So, let me explain how I get to that number.

There has been a lot of discussion recently on the HCPSS operating budget – both how we got into the current ‘mess’, and how that can be addressed.  Additionally, there have been some national discussions on the 10-year anniversary of the ‘Great Recession’ – and its lingering impacts. I wanted to look at the numbers locally to see what the data tells us.

If you examine the local county contribution to the HCPSS operating budget over the past 10 years, it has grown impressively – nearly 32% from FY08 ($427.2M) to FY19 ($600.1M). However, that doesn’t tell the full story. During that same time, HCPSS enrollment grew over 16% – accompanied by additional costs. Still, that resulted in a growth in per pupil funding of over 13% for the 10-year period.

While the above sounds positive, the story changes when we add in the impact of inflation.  Using the inflation numbers for our area from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, we find the FY19 budget represents just under a 9% inflation-adjusted increase over the past 10 years.  More importantly, inflation-adjusted per pupil funding has actually decreased over 6% over the past 10 years.

To put that in perspective – if per pupil funding in FY19 was the same as per pupil funding in FY08, it would almost completely eliminate our $50M structural deficit in the operating budget.

How did we get here? From FY08 to FY14 we saw a reduction of nearly 8% in inflation-adjusted per pupil funding by the County.  While that has improved slightly since then – with FY19 inflation-adjusted per pupil funding approximately 1.6% above the FY14 funding level – we are still well below where we were a decade ago.

Simply put, HCPSS is still suffering the effects of the Great Recession.  The costs of ‘temporary’ strategies such as deferred maintenance and deferred purchases that HCPSS used during the recession are now coming due for payment.

We need Board of Education members to be effective stewards of tax payer dollars and ensure funding is spent wisely.  At the same time, HCPSS cannot continue to maintain the reduced funding levels that were necessary during the recession if we want to provide the level of excellence demanded and deserved by our community.  Restoring HCPSS funding to pre-recession per pupil levels would be a good next step to take.