Differences among schools and districts in amounts per student are caused by many facts. Some of the major causes for these differences are outlined below.
a) Size and composition of the Special Education population. A high percentage of students in Special Education of the total enrollment of a school, and/or a high percentage of students with more intensive needs in the Special Education population will result in schools having a higher overall per student budget.
b) Eligibility for Federal and State non-competitive funds. High poverty schools, schools with large limited English proficient populations, large immigrant populations, or low academic performance, for example, are eligible for more categorical funding than other schools, resulting in higher per student budgets.
c) Overutilization. Overcrowded schools may require additional services such as paraprofessionals, safety officers or leases, thereby increasing per student costs.
d) Underutilization. Small schools and small classes in underutilized buildings result in higher per student costs since fixed costs are spread across fewer students.
e) Number of school buildings and size of enrollments. Fixed costs spread over high enrollments will produce lower per student amounts than when spread over lower enrollments.
f) Success in obtaining competitive grants. All other things being equal, a district or school that is more successful in obtaining grants will have a larger per capita than other districts or schools.
g) Geographic and programmatic variables affecting transportation costs. The existence of magnet programs or barrier-free buildings that draw students from outside the neighborhood, or concentrations of physically disabled students that require special busing will increase transportation costs.
h) Special programs. The existence of programs such as after school, gifted or inclusion programs in selected schools will result in higher per pupil costs.
i) Certain student populations tend to increase during the school year, as pupils are evaluated and placed in special programs (e.g. special education pupils, pupils with disciplinary problems). The official October 31st register, a “snapshot” of enrollment in the early part of the school term, may undercount these populations and result in a per capita that appears larger than it actually is.
j) Universal Pre-Kindergarten. The size and location of universal pre-k programs will lower the overall per capita budget since pre-k students generate fewer resources than pupils in other instructional levels.