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The Buffalo Public Schools' per-student spending is the third highest among large districts in the United States, according to a recent study by the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester.
The district spent $26,903 per student in 2010, according to the study.
Two other districts in the state also ranked among the 10 districts spending the most. New York City ranked fourth, at $24,780 per student; Rochester ranked seventh, at $20,984 per student.
"We were surprised to see Buffalo and Rochester both pop up in the top 10," said Kent Gardner, chief economist and chief research officer for the center. "We know New York is expensive, but for those two districts to show up in the top 10 was a surprise."
The study calculated spending per student by dividing total district expenditures by total district enrollment, two figures that were pulled from federal Census of Governments data that was recently released, Gardner said.
He noted that the data was very "top-level."
"We did a really rough-and-ready ranking," he said.
Buffalo and Rochester are districts of approximately the same size, with very similar demographics.
In 2010, Buffalo reported 32,607 students attending district schools, about 1,000 more than in Rochester. In Rochester, 85 percent of students received free or reduced-price lunches - a measure of district poverty - compared with 77 percent in Buffalo.
And the two cities both reported that about 17 percent of their students required special-education services.
Gardner noted that charter school expenditures were included in the study, while charter school enrollments were not.
He cited figures showing that Buffalo enrolled about 1,500 more students in charter schools in 2010 than Rochester did. That accounts for some of the variation between the two districts, he said.
If Buffalo's total spending were divided by the number of district and charter school students, the cost per student would work out to $22,663, according to Barbara J. Smith, the Buffalo Public Schools' chief financial officer.
Gardner said another major reason for the discrepancy in per-student spending between the two districts was the debt payments associated with Buffalo's Joint Schools Reconstruction Project.
"These figures included Buffalo's substantial capital program, a program Rochester is just beginning to emulate," he said. "Capital spending in Buffalo was about $4,900 per student in 2010 compared [with] about $1,500 per student in Rochester."
Smith noted that when the district analyzed its general fund spending for 2010, it found that costs per student were $16,545.
That included $1,457 per student to cover retiree health insurance, she said.
That district analysis did not include about $140 million in grant revenues that the district spent in addition to its general fund.
That would account for an additional $4,000 per student.

email: mpasciak@buffnews.com