Driving Costs At Boston's Schools

Education spending is one of those things that makes everyone feel good — we all want what’s best for kids, right?

That good feeling begins to fade when you see that many of the drivers of increased spending aren’t directly related to classrooms. In the (laudably detailed) proposed budget for FY13, BPS superintendent Carol R. Johnson notes that health insurance is flat for the upcoming year but will increase by $7.7m in FY14 (on a base of $127.7m in total benefit spending). As noted in a 2010 research report, spending on health benefits increased by more than the increase in state education aid from 2000 to 2007. In other words, all the additional tax dollars the state spent on education during that time was spent on health insurance, not improving classroom instruction.

Transportation is another cost, rising to $80 million in the FY13 budget, with an increase of several million last year and a much larger increase anticipated for FY14. One of the drivers of these costs is the complex assignment system that splits the city into three zones and allows choice within each zone (resulting in lots of busing). I ponder this topic in greater depth in February’s Boston magazine. Go take a look.