District spending seems a bit random

A commenter to skoolboy’s post on the Chicago protest wondered if wealthier districts did a better job educating students eligible for free or reduced lunch. So I ran some St. Louis numbers. Nope.

There is no correlation between per pupil spending in a district and the percent of free or reduced lunch students who test proficient or advanced on the math MAP test. (-.24) There isn’t even a correlation between per pupil spending and the percentage of total students who test proficient or advanced on the math MAP test (-.04)

After looking at the numbers, however, I was surprised at the districts’ spending levels. Clayton having the highest spending is no surprise to anyone, but the number two district is Wellston, the district that has the lowest test scores in the county and that has lost its accreditation.

Does per pupil spending reflect a community’s wealth though? Not as much as we would expect. In fact, not at all. The correlation between per pupil spending and median household income is -.15 (This differs from skoolboy’s findings on Illinois and could from the state of Missouri, but I focused on the St. Louis metro area. I also didn’t use the exact same method he did.)

My next attempt to find a commonality was to draw a map. Bingo. I colored in the top third per pupil spending purple, mid third medium blue and bottom third yellow.

per pupil spending map

Since the city and middle corridor obviously spend more irrespective of community wealth, I hypothesize that the older buildings cost more to maintain. Obviously, teacher salaries could play a factor here too, but those are numbers to run another day.

I’m not arguing that since there’s no correlation, we should reduce funding for all the districts. However, we also can’t equate funding with equality as so many other factors come into play.