Cost per student in Great Neck not as high as some think, school officials say

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Cost per student in Great Neck not as high as some think, school officials say
Great Neck North High School is seen on a warmer fall day. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

If you were to divide the Great Neck Public Schools’ proposed $227.8 million budget by its projected enrollment of 6,637 students, you would get a cost of $34,324 per pupil.

But if you asked Great Neck school district officials about a number like that, which Blank Slate Media previously calculated in 2014, they might suggest trying a different equation.

“It’s an inaccurate figure because there are many additional figures in our budget that have nothing to do with our K-12 program,” Barbara Berkowitz, president of the Great Neck school board, said in a Monday interview.

“You can’t just take the budget and divide it by the enrollment because you have to take certain operational revenues that come in that reduce the expenditures [for students],” Jon Powell, the assistant superintendent for business, added in a separate interview.

Among those factors are fuel costs, adult education programs, a pre-kindergarten program, and other people using the district’s facilities, Berkowitz said. There are also 18 buildings the school has to maintain, such as the Cumberland Avenue, Clover Drive and Grace Avenue buildings.

“All of these are not part of the K-12 program, and yet there are operating costs involved with them,” Berkowitz said.

Additionally, the school also provides transportation, nurses, psychological support services and textbooks to local private and parochial schools like North Shore Hebrew Academy and the Silverstein Hebrew Academy.

“Several million alone goes to… private and parochial schools, but it’s all done so willingly and we provide everything possible under the law and certainly in times at excess,” Berkowitz said.

Powell said this amounts to at least $5.16 million, with $4.74 million going toward transportation, $227,853 to health services and $183,015 to textbooks.

“You could probably safely add another $250,000 to that number for the social worker, psychologist, nurses, things like that,” Powell said, adding that the amount they spend percentage-wise each year is “consistent.”

The school district tends to use four different cost per pupil measurements instead: regular education for kindergarten to sixth grade and seventh grade to 12th grade and special education for kindergarten to sixth grade and seventh grade to 12th grade.

For kindergarten through sixth grade, the school spends about $16,512 per regular education student and $79,384 per special education student at the same grade-range, Powell said.

The school calculates that it spends $24,386 per sixth to 12th grade regular education student, Powell said, and $87,258 per special education student at the same grade-range.

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