For PA and neighboring states, school spending and graduation rates don’t add up

Part 106 of 105 in the series Educating America

By Maura Pennington |

PHILADELPHIA —In Pennsylvania and neighboring states, there seems to be little connection between school spending and graduation rates.

Census data from 2013 shows that Pennsylvania spent a little more than $13,500 per pupil in the 2011-12 school year.

SPENDING: School spending and graduation rates vary in Mid-Atlantic states.

According to a new report, Pennsylvania has a statewide average high school graduation rate of 84 percent. For black or Hispanic students, it’s 68 percent. For Asian or white students, it’s 89 percent. Economically disadvantaged students graduate at a rate of 74 percent, while 64 percent of English language learners complete high school.

Maryland spent virtually the same amount of money on each student as Pennsylvania and came out with the same average graduation rate — 84 percent.

Meanwhile, Ohio spent about $11,200 and had a graduation rate of 81 percent. New York spent close to $19,000 and had an overall graduation rate of 77 percent. New Jersey spent $16,000 and graduated 86 percent of its high school students.

Delaware spent $1,000 less on each student than Pennsylvania and had a graduation rate of 80 percent. There, however, 74 percent of black or Hispanic students graduated; 93 percent of Asian or white students.

The nationwide average graduate rate is 81 percent.

School spending and graduation rates for Pennsylvania and neighboring states show little connection.

In Philadelphia, Matthew Stanski, chief financial officer of the city’s school district, has estimated $11,000 of the district’s $3 billion budget this year was spent on each of the 131,000 students. Philadelphia’s public schools have an average graduation rate of 63 percent.

It obviously varies from school to school.

Based on the School Performance Profile data compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Central High School, which has admission requirements and is specifically for college preparation, earned extra credit for advanced achievement. Its SPP score is 101.3 out of 100. The graduation rate there is 95.7 percent.

Central has a school budget of $11.5 million for 2,300 students.

John Bartram High School, which has recently seen outbreaks of violence and serves a population that is 100 percent economically disadvantaged, has an SPP score of 36.4 and graduates about half its students.

Bartram has a budget of $5.1 million for 1,000 students.

Divided out, Bartram technically has more money in its budget per pupil.

Of course, this information comes with caveats: There is more to graduation rates than how much money is spent in schools, and statewide summaries can hide discrepancies in local spending and outcomes.

Contact Maura Pennington at and follow her on Twitter @whatsthefracas