Spending per pupil, 2019
As reported by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in March 2021, in Fiscal Year 2019 per-pupil spending in Gateway Cities fell to 89 percent of the state average. Haverhill school spending per pupil, at 81 percent of the state average was well below even the Gateway City average. Haverhill is in the upper third of the Gateway Cities in household income. Nonetheless, its per pupil spending remains well below that of similar-income Gateway cities shown by the blue line in the chart below. Haverhill and other Gateway Cities continue to depend heavily on state funding to support a disproportionate share of the state’s low-income student population.
Haverhill’s comparatively low per-pupil spending extends across most school district functions, although it spent more than the state average per pupil in categories covering materials, equipment & technology, guidance, counseling, testing, and pupil services. It was furthest behind the state average in professional development (at 29%), administration (at 62%), and instructional leadership (at 68%).
Measures of school resources
Although we could see improvement when data are available for more recent years, Haverhill has ranked poorly in key measures of school resources relative to similar-income Gateway Cities. Based on DESE data:
- Per-pupil spending fiscal 2019 – Haverhill ranked 373rd out of 404 districts statewide and had the lowest per-pupil spending among the 26 Gateway cities
- Student/teacher ratios 2018-2019- Haverhill had the highest number of students per teacher among 7 similar-income Gateway Cities
- Average teacher salaries 2016-2017 – Haverhill had the lowest among 7 similar-income Gateway Cities and the lowest among 18 nearby (adjacent and adjoining-adjacent) Massachusetts communities
Haverhill has more students per teacher than any of the similar-income Gateway cities.
Teacher salaries are difficult to compare for several reasons. One is that market wages may vary with local cost of living and so may be higher near Boston. Another is that salaries are only part of teacher compensation, which may include substantial health and pension benefits, which can differ markedly among cities and contracts over time. Salaries also vary with teacher experience, so districts with more-experienced teachers can be expected to have higher average salaries. The DESE measure of teacher salaries is a simple average of salaries across teachers of all types and experience levels and does not attempt to account for benefits.
Because Haverhill must hire teachers in its local market, it can be useful to compare teacher salaries with surrounding communities. If we look at the adjacent Massachusetts communities that border Haverhill and next-to-adjacent that border those communities. Haverhill teacher salaries as reported by DESE are the lowest and would need to be increased by 11% to meet the average of these nearby communities. This measure, which does not adjust for benefits or teacher experience.
Measures of tax burden associated with school spending
Measures of tax burden are similarly imprecise and will vary with the circumstances of the taxpayer — home ownership and value, income, etc. Some sense of the cost of Haverhill schools to local citizens can be gleaned by looking at school spending, less state aid, as a percentage of aggregate household income. This measure, computed from DESE and U.S. Census Bureau data, suggests Haverhill spends about 2.5% of aggregate household income on schools, decidedly less than 5 of the six other similar-income Gateway Cities.
One other way to look at the local effort being made to fund schools is to consider school spending relative to the minimum state requirement. Comparability here, requires looking at the similar income cities. Lower income cities typically receive more state aid and higher income cities receive less and typically contribute a local share above the state-required minimum. Among our similar-income Gateway Cities, only Haverhill and Leominster are very near the state minimum. The others spent anywhere between 10 percent and 34 percent more in fiscal years 2015 and 2016.
U.S. Census, American Community Survey, 2011-2015 five-year estimates.
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, School and District Profiles 2019 and earlier, reports on Per Pupil Expenditure, Teacher Salaries, Chapter 70 Aid)