Methodology

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To analyze how schools spend poverty funds, Catalyst adapted personnel and programmatic spending categories developed by the now-defunct Chicago Panel on School Policy for a 1995 study on school spending.

These categories were applied to $371 million in state and federal poverty funds budgeted to 549 elementary and high schools, representing about 88 percent of the total discretionary money going to schools this year. Some schools were excluded for technical reasons, along with a fraction of funds labeled “miscellaneous.”

First, poverty fund spending was sorted into two categories: personnel and non-personnel. Then, using job titles and program codes, personnel expenses (83 percent of funds studied) were further subdivided into one of the following groups: teachers, substitute teachers, classroom aides, administrators, clerical aides, social services, security, parents and other staff. Money earmarked for overtime pay was placed in a separate category, and benefits were prorated based on averages for certified and uncertified personnel.

Most staff were classified solely on their job titles. All school clerks, for instance, were automatically labeled as clerical aides. There were a few exceptions, however.

A fraction of certified teachers (3.5 percent) were classified as administrators or social service staff because they were budgeted to programs outside the classroom. Two assistant principals were labeled teachers. All counselors, health professionals, parent advocates and community representatives were considered social service agents. Many non-certified personnel were tagged as classroom aides or clerks depending on where they were budgeted.

The second analysis sorted spending into three programmatic areas: instructional, instructional support and non-instructional.

Instructional expenses included teachers, classroom aides and non-personnel items such as supplies budgeted for reading, math or other core subject programs. Instruction support is comprised of social services personnel and other expenses associated with support programs. Non-instructional includes assistant principals who do not work in classrooms, clerks, security staff and all other non-personnel items tied to office services or programs not based in classrooms. See chart below: