Your 'Taxpayers' Guide' to West Orange School Spending

Department of Education tracks how every tax dollar is spent in West Orange and the state.


Taxpayers in West Orange can now look at how their tax dollars are being spent by the school district -- cent by cent -- with a new guide released by the Department of Education. 

The “2012 Taxpayers’ Guide to Education Spending” was released last week. This compressive guide includes “a full accounting for all dollars spent on ... schools to provide a complete picture of spending in the state,” according to a press release issued by the DOE.  

The West Orange School District spent $21,236 per pupil in 2010-11, well above the state average of $17,352. West Orange also ranked 96 out of 106 similar school districts in the state when it came to total per pupil spending. 

Only the budgeted costs per pupil were provided for the 2011-12 school year, which provide a less comprehensive picture of spending because it does not factor in pension payments, transportation costs, and other things.

Nonetheless, the budgeted costs were $15,543 last year in West Orange, ranking the district 89 out of 106. 

Other costs in West Orange included:

• $10,095 in total classroom instruction costs using budgeted per pupil costs in 2011-12, which ranked 99 out of 106 school districts;

• $1,578 in total administration costs using budgeted per pupil costs in 2011-12, which ranked 88 out of 106 school districts; and

• $1,902 in total support services costs using budgeted per pupil costs in 2011-12, which ranked 43 out of 106 school districts. 

The full guide to the West Orange School District’s spending can be found here

Among other findings, the DOE’s guide found that there have been trends in three key areas statewide since the 2006-07 school year. 

• The budgetary cost per pupil for instruction was virtually flat, rising from 59.0 percent to 59.1 percent;

• The budgetary cost per pupil for administration declined from 11.0 percent to 10.5 percent; and 

• The budgetary cost per pupil for student support services rose from 15.1 percent to 15.6 percent.

Gary Englert July 30, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Adam: Whether space can be found in a religious institution (not already in use as a parochial school or yeshiva?) or an office building, there are still state mandates as to building codes, life-safety requirements, per pupil square footage, course work (like phys ed) and amenities that even a charter needs to provide...and that calls for an investment in infrastructure...a fact that will knock most fledgling charters out of the box, if their intent is to open in anything other than an existing school building. Further, without such fledgling institutions being able to rather quickly provide a full curriculum for their targeted demographic (K-12, K-5, Middle School, 9-12, or whatever combination thereof) and a respectable number of them, they won't survive long enough or grow in size sufficiently to do a thing to alleviate any space constraints in the communities from which they draw students. No sir, you can't open a charter school in a broom closet or somebody's basement playroom and expect it to have a positive impact on anything. Hua Mei was shot down because it was an ill conceived proposal to create a charter designed to draw students from communities already doing a decent job with public education and essentially duplicating services already available in them.
James Johnston July 30, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Term limits for every elected office are definitely appropriate. The amount of Empire Building in Boards of Education and all the branches of government could be greatly reduced by one simple rule. Following that thought, post limits are definitely required for this, and every, forum. Several West Orange communities have been destroyed by righteous, rabid writers who mistake acerbity for acumen,
Gary Englert July 30, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Anyone asserting term limits for all elected offices is denying the very significant role that seniority, experience and historical perspective play in both our state and federal legislatures and, in the case of the latter, the order of Presidential succession. So long as seniority dictates eligibility for leadership roles, and district without represetatives possessing any will be at a distinct disadvantage. Insofar as the vast majority of local office holders are concerned (Council, Committeemen, Alderman and those on Boards of Educational), that single elective office is all they ever hold and "empire building" is neither the aim nor the end result. The people already posess the tool to regulate who represents them and for how long and the opportunity to use it regularly at the ballot box. Term limits won't create a more informed electorate but, it most surely will limit its choices. I see acerbity in far larger doses than acumen on Internet message boards but, I can't say I've seen any "West Orange communities" destroyed by it, or the righteous, rabid writers who try to combat it.
Brett Kaiser July 30, 2012 at 02:21 AM
How did we get on Charter Schools? Didn't anyone read about the Charter schools that are being funded but empty? The waste and mismanagement of the failing Charter schools as well? No? Did I dream that?
john anthony prignano July 30, 2012 at 02:39 AM
wohopeful Again, you make an excellent point about sports that can replace football. West Orange High School does not offer; fencing, gymnastics, and I did not see girls Fall volleyball on the High School's site, or boys Fall OR Spring volleyball. I did not see Fall tennis on the school site . Free-Style wrestling is not the only form of wrestling available to young people . there is also Greco- Roman. wrestling. I don't think all these programs combined would cost as much as the Football program, and I think there is a great potential for a large number of participants . This meets the requirements of the " We need more extracurricular activities not less " crowd, so NOW what's the problem ? I ask this question rhetorically, because rest assured ,there definitely will be another problem , perhaps in the standard non- sequitor form.
Adam Kraemer July 30, 2012 at 10:39 AM
While some charters schools do have issue I think they can be a useful means to improve education and help on the cost structure of education in West Orange if they they are given a fair chance to grow and if they obtain a certain size. While our public school do some good things they don't have the answer for every educational situation.
Alan Sanders July 30, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Gary, Regarding term limits you write: 'The people already posess the tool to regulate who represents them and for how long and the opportunity to use it regularly at the ballot box.' You have already commented on the apathy of the electorate. My observation, certainly not original, is that 1. Power corrupts - use your historical perspective, 2. When clever politicians cultivate a large enough, small base, as in W.O. they lock in their power. Term limits protect the few who pay attention and the majority who don't, from the waste, corruption and nepotism engendered by the process of perpetual re-election by the witless few. 'I see acerbity in far larger doses than acumen on Internet message boards but, I can't say I've seen any "West Orange communities" destroyed by it, or the righteous, rabid writers who try to combat it.' The West Orange Watercooler was shut down, at least for a while because of the vitriol and if you're not seeing any of it here look in the mirror. Your sarcasm and personal criticism discourages I'm sure, many from posting for fear of being the object of your disparaging posts. How about trying to stick to the issues w/o negative personal characterizations of others, direct, or indirect!
Alan Sanders July 30, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Gary, I'm not going to take the time to cull out what I'm referring to from past posts. I'd be happy if there's nothing of this sort in the future and if I think there is, I'll contact you.
Gary Englert July 30, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Alan Sanders: Let's agree to disagree on term limits as I simply don't share your your concerns or think term limits are the panacea for the ills you see. If you have concerns about my making "disparaging posts" and/or "negative personal characterizations of others," please bring whatever it is you're talking about to my attention and I'd be happy to discuss them with you and offer suitable apologies if indicated. Let's do that off line, shall we? You have my e-mail address.
Gary Englert July 30, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Alan Sanders: Fair enough but, I think history would show that my demeanor is quite civil and respectful to those who reciprocate in kind and that, in the acerbity and sarcasm department, I never draw first blood.
wohopeful July 30, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Thank you again for your keen observations John. I in no way ever advocated discontinuing all extracurricular programs. I do think that there are many less costly activities that would be appealing to the broader population of our students and children that the WOBOE must explore the alternatives. A multi-million dollar football program is no longer sustainable nor necessary in today's society. Given the fact that there are also other programs in town (i.e. PAL & MTL) that offer these programs for our youth it is unnecessary that the WOBOE spend taxpayer dollars to compete with these venues. We must also recognize that the demographics of the student population has changed and that it is far easier to field a soccer team than a costly football program. I would also advocate that activities which have a civic component to them take a priority over very expensive spectator programs.
Gary Englert July 30, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Again, absent any hard evidence to the contrary, the assertion that WOHS football is a "multi-million dollar program" has no basis in fact. PAL and MTL (which doesn't have a football program, by the way) do not compete with WOHS varsity sports as they are age specific programs that essentially prepare kids to participate on the high school level. Insofar as adding or deleting specific varsity sports and activities, this has historically been a matter of student/parent initiative and dwindling participation, respectively. Prior to 1966, soccer did not exist at WOHS and began as a club activity when I was in high school. Similarly, my senior class president (Larry Model, MD, WOHS '69) began a fencing club that endured for a number of years, though I don't believe it ever was elevated to a varsity sport. During one year I was in high school, marching band participation had fallen so far that a "Cowboy Combo" performed at half-time during football games. A move to rejuvenate the band took hold and, the following year, there were as many marchers holding instruments and mimicking playing them as their were legitimate musicians. One of the impediments to establishing any new varsity sport is whether or not it is sanctioned by the NJSISAA; Greco-Roman wrestling, Judo and Karate (for example) are not. Some sport thats are (diving and gymnastics are two) would surely require additional facilities/infrastructure that aren't readily available.
Alan Sanders July 30, 2012 at 03:17 PM
I seem to get comments from this string by email before they're posted online, so this is a reply to one that hasn't appeared yet. Gary on the expense of establishing new sports: . 'One of the impediments to establishing any new varsity sport is whether or not it is sanctioned by the NJSISAA; Greco-Roman wrestling, Judo and Karate (for example) are not. Some sport that are (diving and gymnastics are two) would surely require additional facilities/infrastructure that aren't readily available." Any idea why Greco-Roman wrestling isn't sanctioned. To my knowledge it's not dangerous in any way that requires special equipment. I think that a modest amount of gymnastics equipment like parallel bars and pommel horse wouldn't be unaffordable. Does the high school have this and can any gym teachers provide any guidance? Granted, misuse of this equipment can cause injury and that possibility might generate costs. I remember chinning bars providing me with some good exercise hanging from them and kicking my legs hoping it would generate some elevation!
Gary Englert July 30, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Alan Saunders: I think the primary issue (concerning gymnastics) is a lack of floor space, not the cost of the equipment itself. The high school has two gyms and fields both a boy's and girl's varsity baketball team and a wrestling team ( which does have a dedicated room for practices). All however require a gym for games/matches; a minimum one per week per team, in season, a second weekly competition held in an opponent's gym. The dimensions of a floor exercise mat used in competitions administered by the International Federation of Gymnastics, such as the Olympics and World Championships, is 12 meters long (39 feet) and 12 meters wide (39 feet) with a 'safety border' of 1 meter (3.3 feet). The safety border is what you hear considered as 'out of bounds'...ergo, you need a gym to fit one, not to mention the run space required for vaults and heights required for rings and parallel bars. As to why Greco-Roman wrestling isn't sanctioned, I can only speculate but, would think that the pedominance of free-style wrestling programs in the NCAA would surely be a factor; popularity and participation driving most everything.
Alan Sanders July 30, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I believe that Greco-Roman is the type in Olympic competition so I'm surprised that free-style predominates in college competition. There used to be much Greco-Roman in college competition. As far as mats for floor exercise (ala the Olympics) or run-up space for a pommel horse I don't envision a program that extensive. There's much to do on a horse other than vaulting over it. Rings require height but parallel bars really don't; any ordinary gym is adequate for them. I'm just thinking out loud about ways to provide sports activities that aren't expensive.
Gary Englert July 30, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Alan Sanders: Pertaining to gymnastics...be that all as it may, to field a sanctioned, varsity team, a school must compete in all (not some) of the requisite events and additional gym space WOULD undoubtedly be required in order to do so. Like it or not, the basic laws of physics do apply here: two bodies can't occupy the same space at the same time! :-) For what it is worth, having wrestled myself in high school and having continued to support the high school's team (and attend matches since) I am aware that it has become virtually a year round sport for the most dedicated athletes. Many WOHS wrestlers compete year round in AAU events, clinics and camps and, yes, some even delve into Greco-Roman for the novelty of it. By the way, in case you were unaware of it, the WOHS wrestling program celebrated its 50th Anniversary this past season and also won its first State Sectional Championship.
Gary Englert July 30, 2012 at 05:07 PM
By the way, I should have more properly identified "uneven parallel bars" as the appartaus requiring significant ceiling height (read gym) on which to practice and perform a routine.
Brett Kaiser July 30, 2012 at 06:08 PM
WOW...do we digress. So we are ADDING to the programs now instead of cutting? Can we start from a baseline and support what we have and not lose any valuable programs as a start? Or is that an over-reaching goal?
Alan Sanders July 30, 2012 at 06:57 PM
I was understanding this discussion as looking lower cost alternatives, not as additional programs.
Gary Englert July 30, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Alan: As discussed previously, I believe the premsie that WOHS football costs "millions of dollars" annually is unfounded. That said, considering that more than 10% of the male student body is actually on the team, I believe that looking for lower cost alternatives than would garner as much interest is an absolute exercise in futility. Like it or not, football is an American sport and garners more interest on all levels than any other...even baseball, once considered the "national passtime."
Alan Sanders July 30, 2012 at 07:17 PM
'looking for'
Gary Englert July 30, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Alan: Should have read "looking for lower cost alternatives that..."
john anthony prignano July 30, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Brett Someone named Brett Kaiser named " You NEED ALL the extracurricular activities you can get to the kids.. no matter what they are .... without them you will see a huge decline in the schools " Brett, I think Brett makes a good point . Sir , I have heard you and I have responded .YES !!! More programs ! We NEED ALL the extracurricular activities we can get to the kids, no matter what they are ..... EXCEPT boys Fall and Spring volleyball , girls Fall volleyball, fencing , gymnastics, Fall tennis, and a Greco - Roman Wrestling Club .wohopeful, didn't I say there would be problems ? And that the arguments would be largely in the form of non -sequitors ? wohopeful, the average lifespan of an NFL lineman is 46. Arthritis and heart disease begin to take over in the 30s. Apparently, many people desperately need their bloodsports , perhaps to the point of addictiion.The enormous financial expense and the skyrocketing serious injury rates at all levels and the suffering and the premature deaths from a variety of causes don't matter in the least to these people.
john anthony prignano July 30, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Should read Brett , someone named Brett Kaiser WROTE. And Brett, why would I support what we have, when I don't support it ? That's... what's the expression ? Oh,i know . It's called defending the status quo ....in the most pejorative sense of the term . We defend the status quo because we are... because it's essential that.....and also because the ... no, we defend the status quo solely because it's the status quo .
wohopeful July 31, 2012 at 12:28 AM
At best, an anecdotal observation based on no evidence that has been submitted or accepted as factual.
Will Rod July 31, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Enough with the side show. The biggest costs are teacher/administrator salaries and benefits. Thats what we should be talking about. The failure to reach a new contract with the teachers is unacceptable. We need new leadership or this tax and spend mentality will never change.
Gary Englert July 31, 2012 at 01:24 AM
"Anecdotal observation?" Hardly, as my number of students and percentage of participation are accurate, wherea your alledging the cost of the football program to be "millions of dollars" annually remains unsupported. Make your case P.F.
john anthony prignano July 31, 2012 at 02:14 AM
wohopeful I took a look at neighboring Montclair's sports programs . There are all the traditional ones . There is also ; girls golf, girls gymnastics, girls lacrosse, boys and girls volleyball, boys fencing, girls fencing . and boys and girls bowling.As the lyric from the Broadway hit " Pippin " goes ; There's no trick to staying sensible , despite each cul - de - sac, call each step indispensible, when you're on the right track.
john anthony prignano July 31, 2012 at 02:34 AM
Will Rod The contract is a fait accompli. Rest assured it will be signed, sealed and delivered before the November election . The inevitable raises will be slightly less than County average .{ County average, when there's no County residency requirement . Oh well } The High School provides 14 days less instructional time than the State average .The Union will agree to a longer school day , which they've done before . It will still be significantly less than the State average . The Union will also make concessions on the Health Plan . They will be small, but the Board and Union will tout the savings and ignore the huge increase on one of the most expensive health plans in the State. When we moved to West Orange 32 years ago, I started drinking 35 cups of coffee a day . When there's the inevitable outcry about a tax hike , we have long been told that to pay for it , we need only give up the equivalent cost of one cup of coffee a day. So go ahead, raise my taxes . I can still afford to drink 3 cups of coffee a day..... for now.
Sue Freivald August 02, 2012 at 03:23 PM
"Well into six figures per year" is, though hypothetically correct, extremely rare. Such a figure represents a child with uncommonly severe needs. The state average for a child in a spec ed class is about $40K (for in or out of district)--but only about 7% of WO students (including disabled preschoolers) are in such placements either in or out of district. The vast majority of our "classified" students are served in gen ed settings, which obviously cost less. There are not "summer tutors." There are "extended school year" programs required by law for certain students--the program is about four weeks, half-day, and the purpose is to review to maintain skills in students that would otherwise regress too much over summer. It is for skill maintenance only. It's hard to figure out the "more than fair share" issue in WO--the state classification rate is about 17%, and WO is at about 18.9% (though the state figure is a year old.) For every tale about a family supposedly moving here specifically for spec ed there's another about a family who moved to a district with FEWER in-district offerings so that other district would have to send their child to an out-of-district placement. (If a district can argue that they have an appropriate in-district option, they won't send a child out of district even if such a placement is better. So in a large district like WO, it's harder to get a child sent out of district.) The issue defies simple explanations.


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