Buffalo, NY - According to a U.S Census Bureau report, New York State once again leads the nation in spending per pupil when it comes to our public education system.
In 2007, the last year for which numbers are available, New York State spent more than $17,000 per student, 67% more than the national average, and three times as much as Utah, which has had the lowest cost per pupil.
The average cost in Western New York School Districts varies from the statewide average.
Asked why it costs so much to educate kids in the Empire State, Jane Burzynski, Executive Director of the Erie County Association of School Boards told WGRZ-TV there are several factors at play including salaries paid to teachers and administrators.
"We do have higher salaries for our teachers, but more is expected of them. There are more requirements for teacher certification and education in new York. Not all states require masters degrees and New York State does," said Burzynski, adding that the higher education attained by New York teachers would naturally allow them to command a higher salary.
Still, the graduation rate in New York State at 71% still lags behind other states spending much less per pupil.
Burzynski says this could be because it might well be tougher to graduate in New York State.
"Our graduation requirements are higher than any other state. No other state requires five regents examinations," she said, while noting that the costs to design, implement, and score the tests also add costs to the education budget.
But as state lawmakers and the governor continue to battle over how much to spend on education, Burzynski suggests they might want to look at the mandates placed on school districts by the state for special education.
"There is a total of 214 extra regulations above and beyond federal regulations that are required by New York State. Those extra regulations cost an extra $1.3 billion dollars per year, and we could save that money if we offered the average amount of services, if you will. Not the minimum, ... but the average amount most other states offer. At this point in the economic crisis this state is in, our organization and several school board organizations are asking if we can look at these mandates and re-think them," Burzynski said.
Asked if a New York education is worth the money taxpayers are forced to spend, or if the education received by youngsters here is better than in other states given the high cost per pupil, Burzynski replied, "I hope so ...certainly the testing and rigor we impose is intended to give that good education. However, I come back to the question: Is there a way we can do it less expensively?"