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Per pupil expenditures by school

March 2021

Legislative Brief 

Authors: Tara Bergfeld and Kim Potts

In June 2020, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE or the department) published data showing per pupil expenditures for every public school in the state for school year 2018-19. Under current federal education law, for the first time, states are required to report per pupil spending by school, which is to include funds from federal, state, and local sources. The funds must be disaggregated by source in the figures reported.

To provide some context to the amount of per pupil spending shown for each school, OREA has released an interactive dashboard, allowing users to view the 2018-19 per pupil spending and demographic data for all K12 public schools and districts. Using the dashboard, a user can select a school district and view both district- and school-level financial and demographic information. Users can choose to view all schools within a district or select one or more for comparison. It is not advisable to isolate a single factor as the reason certain schools in a district spend more per pupil than others. Districts must account for a variety of factors when allocating funds to schools.

For the full legislative brief on per pupil expenditures in Tennessee's public schools, click HERE.

About the formula

Guided by the federal law, a working group of states, and a group of school districts who acted as pilots, TDOE developed a formula for calculating school level per pupil expenditures. To develop its formula, Tennessee had to decide the details of which standard expenditures to include (for example, how to divide and assign central or shared expenditures, such as transportation), as well as what to exclude to make the figures comparable and useful across the state.

Tennessee’s final formula designates certain expenditures that can be distinguished at the school level, such as salaries and benefits for those working at least 50 percent of their time in that school, instructional supplies and materials, contracts, utilities, and school nutrition.  All other expenditures are considered district-level. To obtain a per pupil figure, the total school-level and district-level expenditures are each divided by the student membership figure (average daily membership or ADM) as of October 1 of the school year.

Certain expenditures are not included in the per pupil funding figures, including capital outlay and debt service. Private funds from organizations such as parent-teacher associations and booster clubs are also not included in the figure.