NCES data were employed to compare district per-pupil operating expenditures by locale in Michigan. NCES refers to operating expenditures as “current expenditures,” which it defines as “[f]unds spent operating local public schools and local education agencies, including such expenses as salaries for school personnel, student transportation, school books and materials, and energy costs, but excluding capital outlay, interest on school debt, payments to private schools, and payments to public charter schools.”[*]
In the discussion below, total per-pupil operating expenditures are discussed first. Per-pupil operating expenditures are then divided into 10 categories used in the NPEFS: instruction, student support services, instructional staff support services, general administration, school administration, operations and maintenance, student transportation, other support services, all support services (a subtotal of the previous seven categories) and food services. As with the earlier discussion of revenues, per-pupil operational spending in each of these categories is calculated using NCES average daily attendance figures. Operating expenditures in each category will also be analyzed as a percentage of a locale group’s total operating expenditures.[†]
Readers may note that in some years, total per-pupil operating expenditures for large and midsize city subgroups actually exceeded the subgroups’ total per-pupil revenues. These exceptional instances occur at times when a district is either operating in deficit or spending down money carried over from previous years (i.e., fund balances).
[*] Eunice P. Ave, Steven D. Honegger, and Frank Johnson, “Documentation for the NCES Common Core of Data National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS), School Year 2007–08 (Fiscal Year 2008) “(National Center for Education Statistics, 2010), B-2, http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/ pdf/stfis081agen.pdf (accessed March 4, 2011). This study will use the term “operating expenditures,” rather than “current expenditures,” the term employed by NCES.
[†] “Total expenditures,” which include such items as capital spending and debt service payments in addition to operational expenditures, is available in this NCES data set. Total expenditures are not discussed below, however. Capital spending can fluctuate considerably from year to year with, for instance, the renovation of a building or the construction of a new one. Factoring in these uneven expenditures would make cross-year and cross-district comparisons more difficult. (Note that the issue of uneven capital spending does not create the same problem for the earlier discussion of revenues, since the revenues for capital purposes are generally raised in relatively equal annual installments, through debt service or sinking fund millages. In any event, NPEFS does not segregate revenues restricted to capital purposes from revenues available for general operating purposes.)
 Michael Van Beek, phone conversation with Glenda Rader, assistant director, Michigan Department of Education, May 20, 2011.