Small Districts in Kansas Spend Big

As a general rule, the larger a school district gets, the more per-pupil it tends to spend. But the trend isn’t a slope as much as it is a Bell curve. Very small school districts have high per-pupil spending because certain fixed costs – like a superintendent’s compensation – have to be spread across fewer students.

In Kansas this phenomenon is easy to discern. The state has 286 school districts, of which 199 have fewer than 1,000 students. Of the 75 districts with the lowest enrollment, 67 spent more than the national average per-pupil.

The figures for the larger districts were mixed. None exceeded the national average in spending, but Wichita, Kansas City and Topeka all spent more than the state average. Enrollment trends didn’t seem to affect spending much. Neither districts with weak or negative enrollment growth (Shawnee Mission, Derby, Salina) nor those with strong enrollment growth (Olathe, Blue Valley, Geary County) reached the state average in per-pupil spending.