Alameda Unified’s spending subject of new studies
Alameda Unified offers big returns for the money it spends on its students and pours the majority of its money into the classroom, a pair of studies on both national and state school district spending have found.
A national study by the Center for American Progress listed Alameda as 11th in basic return on investment of more than 300 California school districts it studied, and 24th from the bottom in per-pupil spending. It ranked in the top fifth of California districts large and small in achievement.
“This study is another example of how AUSD is a lean, efficiently run district and that it is using the resources that are available very well to serve our students and our community,” the district said in a communication released this week.
The study used 2008 data to gauge the educational productivity of 9,000 American school districts.
A second study analyzing the spending of more than 950 California school districts found that 68 percent of Alameda’s school funding is spent in the classroom, though educators and others have criticized the way the study was done.
That study, released by researchers at the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy, said the district ranked 208 of 955 districts studied in teacher salary and benefit expenditures, and 275th in administrator and supervisor salaries. Six percent of the district’s budget in 2008-2009 went to administrative and supervisor salaries, the study, which was based on data California’s school districts submitted to the state, found.
The study said the district has 28 percent more teachers than it needs to meet an average class size of 25 or less and that the district could hire 51 more teachers if it spent less on other things.
Opponents of the Measure A school parcel tax are citing a second study which they say proves the district is wasting money. They pointed to findings that showed the district’s spending on consultants up 76 percent between 2003-2004 and 2008-2009 and spending on salaries grew more than per capita incomes during the same time period as evidence that the district is wasting money.
District officials didn’t respond to a request for comment on that study, though several school advocacy groups have criticized it.
The California Budget Project also criticized the Pepperdine study, saying its authors failed to include salaries for support personnel like librarians and counselors as classroom expenses and that Californians’ personal incomes actually rose more than the study’s authors stated. The study says salaries at Alameda Unified grew 17 percent while personal incomes overall rose 15 percent, but the California Budget Project said incomes actually rose 18 percent over the time period used in the study, which was funded by the California Chamber of Commerce Educational Foundation.
Davenport’s director of research, Steven Frates, said the study’s aim was to get people talking about districts’ spending priorities, and he pointed out it didn’t offer any recommendations. He conceded districts’ consulting budgets include costs like special education contracts.