What you pay for

Columbiana and Crestview get best bang for educational buck

LISBON — Columbiana consistently finishes first on the state report card among local school districts, and it appears to be getting the most bang for the buck because it is also among the lowest in terms of instructional spending, according to a Morning Journal review of state data.

Columbiana scored 86.5 percent on the performance index component of the state report card for the 2017-18 school year. According to the Ohio Department of Education, the district spent $5,768 per student on instruction during the same period, the fourth lowest of the 12 local school districts surveyed.

The Crestview school district, which finished second with a performance index (PI) score of 80.1 percent, spent the least at $5,605 per pupil.

The Journal looked into this part of the education debate after publishing a story in October about an analysis performed by cleveland.com, which is affiliated with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. That story ranked each school district in Ohio based on academic performance on the state report card once the median household income of the people living in the district was factored in. Generally, higher income districts perform better then lower income districts.

Most of the 12 local school districts performed well using this methodology, with seven finishing in the top 100 among the 608 districts in Ohio.

The Morning Journal decided to take it one step further by ranking local school districts based on their PI score on the state report card and then by how much each spent on student instruction, from least to most. The two rankings were added together and divided by two to come up with a new ranking. For example, Columbiana finished first in terms of PI score and was the fourth lowest in terms of per pupil spending, giving it a combined ranking of 2.5.

Using this methodology, Crestview tied with Columbiana for first with a 2.5 ranking, followed by West Branch at 3, Beaver Local at 3.5, Lisbon at 5.5, United Local at 6, East Palestine and Salem at 6.5, Southern Local at 9, Leetonia and Wellsville at 9.5, and East Liverpool at 11.5.

The analysis found school districts that spent less in general on instruction also tended to score higher on the PI, and the opposite also appears to be true. East Liverpool, for example, spent the most on instruction per pupil at $8,139 but had the lowest PI score, 59 percent. Wellsville spent the second most, at $8,090 per pupil, and had a PI score of 68 percent, the fourth lowest.

The amount spent directly on student instruction represents a portion of what a school district spends. In Columbiana’s case, the district spent a total of $9,856 per student in 2017-18, with $5,768 of that spent directly on instruction. The additional money goes for administration, building operations, and pupil and staff support.