LIMA — Most public school districts in the region spent well below the state average to educate a pupil in 2020-21, keeping costs in check, according to a Lima News analysis of district data.
Of the 24 school districts in Allen, Auglaize and Putnam counties, 19 spend less than the statewide average of $13,387. In fact, the three-county average was $12,187 to educate a student.
The range was from a low of $10,121 in the Bluffton school district up to $16,113 in the Lima district, according to a review of data from the Ohio Department of Education’s fiscal year 2021 district profile report.
The study was part of The Lima News’ 29th annual public school salary review.
Lima schools’ efforts
While Lima schools paid more to educate children last school year, the statistics also show the district has more difficult students to reach.
The percent of students labeled disadvantaged is 99.98%, the second-worst in the region. The percent of students with a disability was 21.68% last school year, the highest rate in the region.
While the Lima district spends more per pupil than other districts in the region, most of those costs are really sunk in educating the child, at $8,997. The administrative cost per pupil is just $1,665, below the state average of $1,764.
The district also has some of the most experienced teachers in the region. Lima has the fourth-highest percentage of teachers with 10 years or more experience in the region at 51.31%.
Lima does have the highest building operating cost per pupil in the region, at $3,178, according to state statistics.
Lima schools hit 49.7% on the performance index percentage in the most recent school report cards and had the lowest four-year and five-year graduation rates in Allen County.
Aside from Lima schools, all of the schools in the region with average costs above the statewide average have something in common. Continental, New Knoxville, Pandora-Gilboa and Waynesfield-Goshen are all smaller, rural districts.
The second-highest cost per pupil in the region is in the Continental schools in Putnam County, which spends $15,836 per pupil. That includes $9,449 in instructional costs, $3,140 in building operation costs and $2,059 in administrative costs per child.
Continental reports 19.6% of students have a disability, and 33.41% of students are considered disadvantaged.
Continental had 79.5% on the performance index in the school report cards, along with a 96.8% four-year graduation rate and 97.8% five-year graduation rate.
Waynesfield-Goshen schools in Auglaize County had the third-highest cost to educate a student, at $15,445. That includes $8,239 in instructional expenditures, $2,906 in building operation and $1,959 in administrative expenditures.
The three lowest numbers for cost per pupil came from Bluffton ($10,121), Allen East ($10,122) and Wapakoneta ($10,407).
Bluffton benefited from the second-lowest administrative costs per student, at $1,158 per year, more than $600 below the state average. It also has the lowest average teacher salary, at $53,122, with 22.54% of teachers with zero to four years of experience to help bring the range down.
Allen East had relatively low building operation costs of $1,827 per pupil to help bring its costs down.
Wapakoneta also had lower-than-average administrative costs per pupil ($1,167) and building operating costs per pupil ($1,985).
All but one local school district has an average teacher salary below the statewide average of $67,654.
Minster schools in Auglaize County is the only one higher, at $68,740 per year. Minster boasts 72.13% of its teachers have at least 10 years experience, with another 16.39% with four to 10 years experience.
Shawnee schools in Allen County had the second-highest average in the region, at $67,414, just below the statewide average. It has 72.22% of teachers with 10-plus years of experience and 17.36% of teachers with four to 10 years of experience.
Jennings schools in Putnam County had the second-lowest teacher salaries in the region, behind Bluffton, at $54,588. Jennings also has a younger teaching staff, with 9.3% with zero to four years of experience and 25.58% with four to 10 years of experience.
Waynesfield-Goshen has the highest average administrative salary in the region, at $90,917. In comparison, the statewide average for administrators was $86,983. That’s in part because the district only has four administrators serving an average of 105.57 pupils. Superintendent J. Chris Pfister earned $109,849 last year, the 27th highest school wage in the region.
New Bremen had the second-highest average administrative salary in the region, at $90,607. That district has five administrators serving an average of 143.66 pupils. Two made more than $100,000 last year. Superintendent Jason Schrader earned $111,631, and kindergarten through sixth-grade principal Diane Kramer earned $101,107.
Spencerville had the lowest average administrative salary in the region, coming in at $51,727. The larger district says it has 14 administrators serving an average of 61.41 pupils, although it does have four administrators making more than $100,000 a year last year.
Delphos schools had the second-lowest average administrative salary in the area, at $55,167 for its nine administrators, serving an average of 105.12 pupils. Superintendent Douglas Westrick earned $97,282, making him the second-lowest paid superintendent in the region.
Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, meets with Lima schools Superintendent Jill Ackerman and students from West Middle School in September to talk about an interactive afterschool program. Lima schools has the highest spending per pupil in the region, but it also educates the largest number of disabled and second-highest number of disadvantaged students in the region.