Focus on Missouri


                School Costs:

The Value of Small Schools in Missouri


National research shows that:

1)       Small schools do not necessarily cost more to operate

2)       Administrator costs in small schools do not necessarily absorb a larger portion of overall costs than in large schools

Missouri-specific research




Financial Distress:

<      Eleven Missouri school districts were designated as “financially stressed” in 2002-03[1]

<      Of those 11 districts: 2 were small rural K-8 districts; 3 were rural K-12 districts under 200 students; 1  rural K-12 district of 700 students was located within a metro area; 1 was a consolidated, rural, county-wide K-12 district with 3500 students; 2 were K-12 districts in large towns with more than 1200 and 1500 students enrolled, respectively; and 2 were urban K-12 districts with enrollments of 3500 and 41,000 respectively.  Financially stressed districts are found throughout Missouri with schools of all size enrollments, in both rural and non-rural areas.


Cost of Operation[2]:

<      The average 2002-03 current expenditure per pupil across all Missouri districts is $6633.  The expenditure per pupil in K-8 districts exceeds that in K-12 districts by only $497, despite an average difference in enrollment of 1833 students

o        For K-8 districts the current expenditure per pupil is $7058

o        For K-12 districts the current expenditure per pupil is $6561

<      The median enrollment across all Missouri school districts is 630 students. (Half of the districts have more than 630 students enrolled; half have less than 630 enrolled.)  Those districts under 630 enrollment spend $775 more per student than do districts over 630 enrollment

o        For districts under 630 enrollment, the current expenditure per pupil is $7021

o        For districts over 630 enrollment, the current expenditure per pupil is $6245

<      Current expenditures per pupil are $14 more in rural areas than in non-rural areas.[3]  But the current expenditures per pupil in rural areas is $746 less than in urban/suburban areas.

o        For K-12 districts located in rural areas  -  $6566

o        For K-12 districts located in non-rural areas  -  $6552

§          For K-12 districts located in urban/suburban areas -  $7312

§          For K-12 districts located in non-metro towns              -  $5821

<      The total cost per graduate[4] in rural districts is $6326 less than in non-rural districts

o        In rural districts, the cost per graduate is  $95,907

o        In non-rural districts, the cost per graduate is $102,233

§          In urban/suburban areas, the cost per graduate is $116,800

§          In non-metro towns, the cost per graduate is $88,227


Administrator Costs:

<      The median size of K-12 districts in Missouri is 744 students

<      Those districts with less than 744 students spend 10.67% of the total expenditures on administrative costs, as currently defined; those districts with more than 744 students spend 8.51% of their total expenditures on administrative costs

<      But those districts with higher administrative costs span all district sizes and locations in the state

<      As Core Data is currently collected, administrative costs fail to take into account all non-administrative duties carried out by small school administrators.  Small school superintendents and principals routinely take on duties typically carried out by support staff in larger districts, thereby over-representing administrative costs in small schools.

[1] From the 2002-03 Missouri Annual Secretary of the Board Report

[2] All data except cost per graduate are from 2002-03 DESE files;  Cost per graduate data are from 2001-02 DESE files

[3] Non-rural includes NCES Locale Codes 1-4 (Metropolitan cities and their urban fringe) and Locale Codes 5-6 (Non-metro towns over 2,500 population); rural includes Locale Codes 7-8 (Rural, in towns under 2,500 or in the open country

[4] Calculated as the 2001-02 Total Current Expenditure divided by the Number of Graduates in 2001-02