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Most area districts spend below state average on students

January 08, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

Seven of the eight school districts in Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania spent less per student than the state average in 2004-05, and all three counties in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia fell short of their state average in the same year.

The average spending per student in Franklin County schools in 2004-05 was $1,000 less than the state average of $9,736, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has reported.

With Pennsylvania's figures showing that school spending ranged from $7,929 per student in Westmoreland County's Penn-Trafford School District to $20,221 per student in Montgomery County's Lower Merion School District, the Legislature in July told the Pennsylvania State Board of Education to develop a comprehensive "costing-out" study to determine the cost per student needed to provide children with a quality education.

The results of that study, being conducted by Augenblick Palaich and Associates Inc. for $644,000, are expected in late 2007.

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The purpose is to determine the expenditures needed to ensure students meet statewide academic standards "regardless of ZIP code," state Education Department Spokesman Mike Storm said.

School spending in the Eastern Panhandle fell several hundred dollars short of West Virginia's average cost per student of $8,274 in 2004-05.

The West Virginia Department of Education reported on its Web site that Berkeley County Schools spent an average of $7,498, Jefferson County Schools spent an average of $7,687 and Morgan County Schools spent an average of $7,926.

In Franklin County, Greencastle-Antrim School District spent the least per student in 2004-05, with the state reporting the figure as $7,488. The report shows Chambersburg Area School District at $8,244, Fannett-Metal School District at $9,673, Tuscarora School District at $8,949 and Waynesboro Area School District at $8,662.

State revenues provided for the Franklin County schools in 2004-05 ranged from $2,904 per student in Greencastle-Antrim School District to $4,818 in Fannett-Metal School District. Regarding state revenue, Fannett-Metal ranked 195th of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts.

Local revenues ranged from $5,584 per student in Greencastle-Antrim School District to $3,629 in Fannett-Metal School District. Greencastle-Antrim ranked 232nd in the state.

"We rely on local revenue because of our wealth," Greencastle-Antrim Superintendent P. Duff Rearick said, emphasizing that the district spent less than the state average.

Variances in spending between districts depend on factors such as salaries, class size and health insurance benefits, Rearick said.

"There's a multitude of factors that come into play," Storm said. Among those are the strength of the local economy, the number of students and different management techniques in schools, he said.

Waynesboro Area School District Superintendent Barry Dallara would not discuss what causes one school to spend more per student than another. He said the greater Waynesboro area is balanced in that the state's formulas afford it aid while the district has a respectable tax base.

Rearick said dwindling state allocations every year "have been passing the responsibility of funding the cost of public education on the local taxpayer."

In Fulton County, Central Fulton School District reported spending $9,604 per student, while Forbes Road School District spent $10,166 and Southern Fulton School District spent $8,127.

The average number of students in schools daily was 8,434 for Chambersburg Area School District, 598 for Fannett-Metal School District, 2,787 for Greencastle-Antrim School District, 2,780 for Tuscarora School District and 4,145 for Waynesboro Area School District.

The head-count enrollment in schools in the rapidly growing Eastern Panhandle schools for 2004-05 was 14,983 in Berkeley County, 7,672 in Jefferson County and 2,574 in Morgan County.

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