Comparing the budgets of two school systems

Recent comments by members of the Frederick County Board of Education indicated a 1.9 percent raise for teachers was necessary in order to offer competitive salaries. Frederick County Public School teachers do have one the lowest pay scales in the state. A 1.9 percent raise indeed seems appropriate and reasonable.

The BOE comments also referenced the higher pay scale for teachers in the Washington County Public Schools (WCPS) system as an example of the imbalance. A comparison of the two systems reflects pertinent differences.

Ostensibly, both systems comply with the same state and federal criteria, regulations and laws. Both spend about $15,000 per student to accomplish that.

However, FCPS has one employee for every 7.3 students. WCPS has one employee for every 8.8 students. Consequently, FCPS has a 20 percent higher staff-to-student ratio compared to WCPS.

Also, separating 2021 operating budgets into costs for instruction and costs for non instruction, produces interesting differences.

WCPS spends $166 million for instructional purposes, about $7,500 per student. FCPS spends $265 million for instructional purposes, a substantially lower per-student amount of about $5,900.

Non-instructional spending shows a similar disparity. WCPS spends $171 million, about $7,700 per student compared to FCPS non-instructional spending of $409 million, about $9,000 per student.

Consequently WCPS cost per student is equally split, 50 percent for instructional and 50 percent non instructional.

Conversely, FCPS per-student spending is 40 percent instructional and 60 percent non instructional

Perhaps the reason WCPS has a higher teacher pay scale is they direct a higher percentage of budget to instructional efforts and less to non instructional, compared to FCPS.

BOE members, and those running for the BOE this year, should consider looking at how other school systems are able to allocate more budget for instruction and less for non-instruction purposes and still provide a quality education.

A shift in spending priorities is likely more palatable to the average taxpayer than the annual large budget increases and months of associated consternation.

Incidentally, kudos to both school systems for budget documents that are easily accessible and transparent.

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