State says average cost to educate a student – $17,836

TRENTON – The average cost to educate a student in New Jersey is $17,836, and $20,859 in the at-risk school districts, according to a new state Education Department guide released Friday afternoon.

The department released the 2011 Taxpayers’ Guide to Education Spending to provide a clearer idea on how and where education funds are spent. It can be found at www.state.nj.us/education/guide/2011/

The guide, formerly known as the Comparative Spending Guide, includes per-pupil spending figures from grades kindergarten through 12 in the 2009-10 school year.

Gov. Chris Christie hailed the guide as a comprehensive book of details on school spending that is more reflective of actual costs than prior years’ guides.

“The Taxpayers’ Guide now includes the total amount that is actually spent for students in preschool through grade 12,” Christie said in a statement. “If we are going to reform a system that is failing tens of thousands of children, we need real accountability for academic performance that considers the total dollars being spent. Parents, students and taxpayers deserve nothing less than a complete reporting of all the facts.”

Previous calculations of the total per-pupil cost in the former Comparative Spending Guide did not include costs such as transportation, debt service, federal funds, and state payments on behalf of the districts for pension, social security, and post-retirement medical costs, according to state education officials. The previous guide also omitted the costs of tuition and students sent out of district, but are included in the new guide.

Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf also highlighted the additional information the guide provides.

“One of the first commitments I made as Commissioner was to improve our data reporting systems and provide more complete financial information,” Cerf said in the statement. “Today’s report is a necessary first step to serve our children better. All the facts should be available to the public, and with today’s report, the Christie Administration releases more financial information about our public schools than has ever been released before.”

The total per-pupil cost is calculated by dividing districts’ total expenditures, and state payments on behalf of the district, by total students, excluding those attending charter schools. Charter school students and expenditures are listed in a separate section.

  State says average cost to educate a student – $17,836