Per-pupil costs among lowest in state

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

You're not going to believe this, but we've checked and rechecked and the answer keeps coming up the same: McCook School District 17 has the lowest cost per pupil by average daily attendance among Class 3 school districts in Nebraska.

That's right, the lowest.

The startling facts about per pupil costs were uncovered by going through the 2002-03 per pupil cost study. The statistics for the study were compiled by the School Finance and Organization Services division of the Nebraska Department of Education.

So just how low was McCook's cost per pupil? According to the Education Department's summary, the average cost per pupil by attendance last year in McCook was $6,425.22. The next lowest among the 216 Class 3 school districts in the state was Gordon with a cost per pupil by average daily attendance of $6,443.59.

When per pupil costs are figured on the basis of average daily membership (or total enrollment), the lowest spot on the Nebraska Class C list is held by Grand Island with a cost per pupil of $6,141.73. That's just a little over $2 less than the per pupil cost of $6,143.86 for McCook, which was a close second in the rankings.

In the cost comparison in the average daily attendance category, the ten school districts with the lowest cost per pupil in Nebraska are: (1) McCook, $6,425,.22; (2) Gordon, $6,443.59; (3) Grand Island, $6,507.14; (4) Ponca, $6,559.95; (5) Battle Creek, $6,610.25; (6) Bennington, $6,981.16; (7) Creighton, $6,697.30; (8) Gothenburg, $6,721.44; (9) Aurora, $6,766.66; and (10) Randolph, $6,791.19

Class 3 school districts are those districts with between 1,000 and 150,000 population which maintain both grade school and high school facilities and programs.

The only class with lower per pupil costs are the Class I districts, which are for elementary-only students.

In Red Willow County, the cost per pupil by average daily attendance are $7,352.53 for students in District 8 (Fitch) and $10,570.43 for District 41.

Statewide, the lowest per pupil cost -- $3,576.20 -- was for Plainview, a Class I district in Hall County, and the highest per pupil cost -- $34,001.71 -- was for Boiling Springs Public School, a Class I in Sheridan County.

The statewide average per pupil cost on an average daily attendance basis was $7,896.52. So, why, at more than $1,470 less than that figure, are the taxpayers of McCook still concerned about cost? It's because of what has happened to education costs in the last 20 years. In Nebraska, in 1981-82, the per pupil cost was $2,189. That had more than doubled, to $4,336.97 by 1990-91, and had grown by an additional $3,000 plus by 2002-03 to $7,476.30.

Still, the McCook Board of Education and administration deserve commendation for holding the line on spending as well as they have. In a time of spiraling school costs, it's comforting to know that per pupil costs in McCook are the lowest in the state for Class 3 school districts.

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