On September 4, 2007, the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC) will release its 2007 edition, How Rhode Island Schools Compare, a report which compares education finances in the Ocean State to the other 49 states. New to this year’s report is a ten-year comparison on all measures, providing a historical perspective to issues surrounding school finance.
Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut have many similar characteristics with regard to how they finance public education. All three states rank in the top 10 for per pupil expenditures, average teacher salaries and above the national average in dependence on the property tax. However, the ten-year trend shows Rhode Island moving against the prevailing national and regional trends.
In marked contrast to the rest of the country the proportion of education aid that is funded primarily by property taxes in Rhode Island has increased from 53.4 percent to 60.2 percent. For the nation, local revenue generated 43.3 percent of school revenue in 2006 compared to 45.1 percent ten years earlier. During this time, Rhode Island rose in the national rankings for reliance on local revenues from 14th to 3rd highest. In Connecticut the share of school revenues from local sources as a percent of the total decreased from 56.5 percent (9th highest) to 54.8 percent (7th highest). Massachusetts decreased in both the rankings and in the percent of revenue raised by property taxes, from 59.2 percent (6th highest) to 51.4 percent (12th highest).
RIPEC also found that while Rhode Island ranks 9th highest in expenditures per pupil, the rate of per pupil growth has been out-paced in Massachusetts and the United States as a whole. Since 1996 the Ocean State has dropped in the rankings from 5th highest to 9th highest, with a per pupil expenditure growth of 51.8 percent. By contrast, the national average growth in per pupil expenditures was 58.4 percent. The increase in Massachusetts was 79.4 percent and 50.8 percent in Connecticut.
Rhode Island’s teacher salaries experienced a slightly higher rate of growth than the national average, and have maintained their relative position, increasing from 9th highest in fiscal year 1996 to 8th highest in 2006. During this time, Ocean State teacher salaries have remained approximately 11.0 percent higher than the national average. Average teacher salaries increased by 31.0 percent in Rhode Island compared to the U.S. average of 30.3 percent, and 18.4 percent and 33.9 percent in Connecticut and Massachusetts, respectively.
Additional findings include:
- Although Rhode Island ranks in the top ten for per pupil spending, with expenditures of $11,089 in 2006, the State is ranked 35th highest in percent growth for per pupil expenditures. Connecticut and Massachusetts ranked 36th and 9th highest, respectively. Since 1996, the average annual rate of growth in per pupil expenditures in the Ocean State was 4.3 percent, compared to 6.0 percent in Massachusetts and 4.7 nationally; Connecticut was 4.2 percent.
- Over the last 10 years, rankings for teacher salaries have remained relatively unchanged in the three southern New England states. Rhode Island’s rank increased by one position to 8th highest in the country with the average teacher salary of $54,730 in 2006. Connecticut and Massachusetts were unchanged in the rankings, ranking highest ($59,499) and 7th highest ($56,587), respectively. Between 1996 and 2006 the average annual rate of growth in teacher salaries was 2.7 percent in Rhode Island, compared to 3.0 percent in Massachusetts, and 1.7 percent in Connecticut.
- Rhode Island ranked 36th highest (41.5 percent) for the percentage of total revenues funded through state sources in 1996. In 2006 Rhode Island ranked 42nd, with 36.5 percent of total revenues coming from the State. During this time period, Connecticut saw their state share decrease 0.1 percent to 39.0 percent, and Massachusetts saw the state share increase from 35.5 percent to 42.9 percent.