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This pamphlet presents an analysis of current expenses per pupil in average daily attendance in 308 city public-school systems for the school year 1936–37. Computations reported here were made from the reports received in the Office of Education direct from school officials in each city.


As stated in the previous pamphlets of this series, caution should be used in interpretation of the data given, especially in comparisons made between cities in regard to total costs. Care should be taken to note in which of the items of current expense the greatest variations lie. For example, in some cities the public library functions as a part of the public-school system, being under the direct control of the city board of education; in the majority of cities, however, the public library is administered by a separate board of trustees and is not a factor in school expense. Likewise the items of transportation of pupils, and of medical inspection, dental inspection, and nurse service, are a part of school costs in some cities but not in others. Therefore, in the cities in which such items are a part of school expenditures, the cost of coordinate activities and auxiliary agencies will be much greater than in cities in which these items are not a part of the school budget. Furthermore, for maintenance of school plant (repairs and replacements) a city may expend a large amount in 1936-37, while in some other year it may expend a relatively small amount. Footnotes have been used to explain unusual costs.


For total current expense in 1937 there was a decrease of 3.3 percent in the average annual cost per pupil in average daily attendance below that for 1936 in cities of less than 100,000 population. The cost was $83.86 in 1936 and $81.06 in 1937. In group II cities, the cost dropped from $90.09 in 1936 to $87.04 in 1937, a decrease of 3.4 percent; in group III cities, from $70.84 in 1936 to $69.37 in 1937, a decrease of 2.1 percent; while in group IV cities, the cost was $72.23 in 1936 and $73.26 in 1937, an increase of 1.4 percent, yet the slight increase in cost in this group was not sufficient to influence the cost of the three groups poticeably when taken as a whole. In group II cities, with the exception of cost of general control, which remained the same in 1937 as in 1936, the cost of each main item of current expense decreased during the year; in group III, there was a decrease in cost of

The reports arriving after October 31 were not included and some reports were excluded becanse of incomplete data.

each item excepting maintenance of plant and auxiliary agencies; in group IV, a decrease in cost of each item excepting instruction.

In cities of 100,000 population and more, however, the average cost was $107.19 in 1936 as compared with $112.08 in 1937, or an increase of 4.6 percent. This increase in the average cost in cities of the highest population group was sufficient to overbalance the decrease in cost in cities of less than 100,000 population, and resulted in an increase of 2.8 percent in the average cost for the 308 cities combined.


The Federal Census of 1930 forms the basis upon which the 308 cities have been grouped. Group I includes 68 cities, which is 73.1 percent of all cities having a population of 100,000 or more; group II, 82 cities, which is 36.3 percent of all cities having a population of 30,000 to 99,999; group III, 79 cities, which is 12 percent of all cities having a population of 10,000 to 29,999; and group IV, 79 cities, or 3.7 percent of all cities having a population of 2,500 to 9,999. At the end of each group the average cost for each major item of current expense is given so that any city, whether included in this study or not, may be able to compare its school costs with like costs of the group as a whole and determine the ratio of its cost to the average cost of the group.


All items of expenditure in this study relate to current costs in fulltime day schools only, and therefore do not include any costs incurred through operation of part-time or continuation schools, night schools, and summer schools. These costs are excluded because comparable data on the average attendance in these schools could not be procured. The following items are also excluded from current costs: (1) Expenditures for the care of children in special institutions, and for tuition to other school corporations, since data are not furnished for the attendance of the children for whom these payments are made; (2) all costs of debt service, including interest, since in certain cities large amounts are borrowed each year in anticipation of tax receipts, and are repaid in the following year. Furthermore, such payments are often for bonds issued to meet expenditures for building and other capital outlay, and in many cities records of these payments are not handled by the school authorities, making it difficult for this Office to procure the information needed; (3) all capital outlay and items of depreciation in property values.


The items of current expense are (1) general control, which covers cost of administration of the schools as a whole, including salaries and expenses of the school board, superintendents of schools and their offices, superintendents of buildings, school business managers, chiefs or directors of compulsory attendance and school census, and directors of medical, dental, nurse, guidance, and similar services, who are not in the field; (2) instruction, including salaries and expenses of supervisors, principals, and teachers, cost of textbooks issued free to pupils, and other educational supplies; (3) operation of plant, including salaries and supplies of janitors, engineers, and other building employees, and cost of fuel, light, and water; (4) maintenance of plant, which covers repairs and replacements to building and fixtures; (5) coordinate activities and auxiliary agencies, including field workers in promotion of health and enforcement of compulsoryattendance laws, transportation of pupils, expenditures for public libraries which are under the control of the school board, free lunches, and lunchroom deficits; and (6) fixed charges, covering rent, insurance, taxes, and payments made to pension funds, not including deductions from salaries for pension-fund purposes.


The total cost per pupil in average daily attendance in the 308 city school systems in 1937 was $105.60. The average for the cities of group I was $112.08; for group II, $87.04; for group III, $69.37; and for group IV, $73.26, as shown at the end of each group in table 1. Of the $112.08 total cost in the average city of group I, $3.48, or 3.1 percent, went for general control; $87.03, or 77.7 percent, for instruction; $10.11, or 9 percent, for operation of plant; $4.42, or 3.9 percent, for maintenance of plant; $2.70, or 2.4 percent, for coordinate activities and auxiliary agencies; and $4.34, or 3.9 percent, for fixed charges.

The following table gives the range in the annual cost per pupil in average daily attendance for each current expense item in the 308 cities studied in 1937:



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General control..
Operation of plant.
Maintenance of plant.
Coordinate activities and auxiliary agencies.
Fixed charges....

Total current cost.

$1. 16- $7.78
42. 92-131. 89
3. 33- 17.61
1.01- 8. 61

09- 7.54
0 - 11.93

$0.71- $8.66
24. 49-153.98
2. 20- 19. 41

. 10 9.16
0 - 15.00
0 - 10. 27

$1. 22- $7.96
20. 17-103. 01
1. 79- 16. 65

31- 8. 18
0 7. 17
0 8. 14

$2. 06- $8.39 22. 98-125. 45 1. 83- 21.33

.32- 8. 12 0 - 12. 52 0 8.95

51.32-155. 17

28. 62-198. 09

27, 17-137.86

27.90-166. 44



Because of the great influence which the cities of higher costs exert upon the average cost in any group of cities, the median cost, it is believed, serves as a more accurate measure than the average cost in presenting comparisons. For example, in the cities of group I, the average cost per pupil in 1937 was $112.08, while the median pupil cost for this group was $92.22. This is a difference of $19.86 per pupil. The difference between the median cost and the average cost is comparatively slight in each of the groups of less than 100,000 population. However, the wide difference between these costs in the cities of the highest population group is sufficient to influence greatly these costs in the 308 cities taken as a whole, for which the median cost was $78.39 and the average cost was $105.60, a difference of $27.21 per pupil in attendance.



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The average cost per pupil in various years for each of the 4 groups of cities is given in the following table. The cities between 10,000 and 100,000 population expended less per pupil in 1937 than in 1936, while in the cities of more than 100,000 population and in those of less than 10,000 population the average expenditure was a little higher than in the previous year. With exception of the cities of the highest population group, the average annual cost per pupil in 1937 was greatly below like cost in 1930, being 17 percent less in the cities of group II; 20.1 percent less in the cities of group III; and 19.6 percent less in the cities of group IV. For all groups combined the highest average cost was $113.03 per pupil in attendance in 1932; the lowest cost was $87.65 per pupil in 1933. This represents a drop of 22.5 percent in the

average cost per pupil from 1932 to 1933. In 1937 the average cost was $105.60 which is 6.6 percent less than like cost in 1932.

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