Cape Cod's strange school math

10 percent fewer students in fiscal 2012 versus fiscal 2005 cost the Cape's school districts $73 million more to educate them
In FY ’12 it cost $72M more to educate 3,306 fewer students than in FY ‘05.

School costs up 19.72%, enrollment down 9.84%

FY ’12 cost $72M more to educate 3,306 fewer students than FY ‘05

In numbers which can only remind taxpayers of Tom Lehrer's hilarious skit called "New Math", Cape Cod's school districts have managed to do less for more.

Cape area school district costs increased by 19.72% between fiscal years 2005 and 2012 while overall enrollment dropped by 9.84%.

Statewide, school enrollment dropped by 2.14% but costs increased by 25.89% according to data obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

See the cost comparison chart below.

Tom Ledrer's "New Math" skit.Cape area per student expenditures grew by an average of 36.42% versus a state average increase of 28.64%.

Local school districts spent almost $443 million educating students in fiscal 2012 versus nearly $370 million in fiscal 2005.

Total Expenditure vs. Enrollment

Upper Cape Cod Tech booked the highest percentage spending increase at 49.41% with an enrollment increase of 3.94%.

Schools in Mashpee saw an enrollment drop of 11.98% but had total expenditures grow by 36%.

Three of the four the independent elementary districts in the Nauset Region saw expenditures grow by greater than 30%, the most dramatic of which was Wellfleet where enrollment fell by 9.2% and spending grew by 33.88%.

State-wide, average total expenditures grew by 25.89% against an enrollment decline of 2.14%. US inflation between 2005 and 2012 was 19% per usinflationcalculator.com.

Per Pupil Cost

As enrollments decline, tracking per pupil expenditures is like catching the slipperiest of eels. State-wide, per pupil cost grew by 28.64% from 2005 to 2012, increasing from $10,600 to $13,636 per student.

Cape area school districts’ per pupil cost went up by an average of 36.42% from fiscal ’09 to ’12.

Provincetown’s per pupil expenditure ballooned 58.52%, from $21,329 to $33,811. Faced with a 40% decline in enrollment, this period is when Provincetown made the difficult decision to close its high school.

Mashpee booked a 54.95% increase in per pupil spending while Sandwich, Nauset and Wellfleet saw increases of 47.69%, 47.41% and 47.45% respectively.

Barnstable Bucks Trends

Barnstable’s public schools saw a 5.98% enrollment increase from 2005 to 2012. Their total expenditure increased by only 15.62% and per pupil cost went up only 9.11%.

A Complicated Issue

School finance is a complex kettle of fish in the midst of declining enrollment, escalating energy costs and negotiated contractual wage increases. Barnstable closed multiple school buildings in order to control spiraling costs. Smaller school districts don’t have surplus buildings to close and are often trapped by enrollment too high to axe classrooms but too low to be cost effective.

Cape Cod Today welcomes comment and contributions from all Cape area school districts that wish to talk about their school finance and enrollment issues. We endeavor to give all sides a forum whether it be in the form of reader comments, letters to the editor, op-ed pieces or virtual interviews.


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