On Monday, Rochester Public Schools (RPS) had some big news. Because of budget shortfalls and a recent failed referendum, the district is looking to close several of its schools.
The local teachers’ union is not happy.
“It was kind of shocking that the proposal included closing three schools,” Vince Wagner, the president of the Rochester Education Association told MPR News. “I am inundated with calls, emails, texts from members in those three buildings this morning. They are in full blown panic mode.”
It’s understandable that teachers and the public are surprised by the news. But a look at the budget numbers from RPS makes things less surprising, for the district’s own reporting reveals the astronomical cost of education for each student under its care.
Heading over to the budget portion of the RPS website, we find that clicking on the “2022-2023 MDE Budget Publication Report” link results in the following error message. Perhaps the district removed it after the referendum failed? It’s a reasonable conclusion, but leads us to wonder why such a move was necessary. Why not leave the numbers there for people to compare before-and-after referendum numbers?
Since the most recent data was removed, we reverted to the “2021-2022 MDE Budget Publication Report,” which led to the chart below. We then took RPS’s total spending for FY 2021 (“FY 2021 Actual Expenditures and Transfers Out”) and divided it by the district’s own enrollment numbers, known as “Average Daily Membership” or ADM. In short, $360,695,306 divided by 17,225 students equals a grand total of $20,940 per student.
Did you catch that? Rochester Public Schools spends $20,940 per child.
Given that tuition at some top private schools in the area–Lourdes High School and Schaeffer Academy–is roughly half that price tag, it would be easy to conclude that RPS is dishing out some first class education, right?
Eh, not so much. Behold the academic achievement numbers from RPS in the last few years (including 2019, before COVID hit):
Academic proficiency that hovers around 50% or lower isn’t exactly what most of us would call stellar education.
But perhaps the parents of Rochester are already realizing that, and such a realization has led them to seek better schools for their children, thus leading to the declining enrollment driving the current RPS budget cuts. And if Rochester parents are already seeking education alternatives, wanting to find the best education for their children, then why don’t we let the taxpayer money we spend on each student follow the child rather than going toward an apparently broke system?
It’s just common sense.
Image Credit: Rochester Public Schools