How Does Westford Stack Up In Per-Pupil Spending?

We took a look, and here's what we found out.


One thing that has been continually discussed over the past year in Westford is how much the School Department is pinching pennies when it comes to per-pupil costs and teacher salaries.

We checked out the 2010-11 overall statistics from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and here's what we found.

Out of the 328 districts in the state, Westford ranked 278 in per-pupil expenditures, approximately three times less than #1 (Provincetown) and approximately $2,000 per-pupil more than #328 (Shirley).

In terms of teachers' salaries, Westford was #147, about $22,000 a year less than #1 (Dover) and about $33,000 a year more than the lowest ranked district in the state (Florida).

Here's how Westford fared against districts of comparable student population elsewhere in the state.

District Student Population General Fund Appropriations Grants, Revolving & Other Funds Total Expenditures Expenditure Per Pupil SOMERVILLE 5428 $77,332,967 $10,097,605 $87,430,572 $16,108 WELLESLEY 4980 $68,428,529 $8,365,887 $76,794,416 $15,421 MARLBOROUGH 5022 $61,573,930 $8,481,486 $70,055,416 $13,949 CHELSEA 5847 $64,116,218 $16,031,788 $80,148,006 $13,708 NEEDHAM 5451 $64,845,340 $9,292,040 $74,137,380 $13,602 BARNSTABLE 5567 $64,887,956 $9,102,897 $73,990,853 $13,291 MEDFORD 5325 $61,344,056 $8,376,313 $69,720,369 $13,093 WESTFIELD 6070 $65,103,930 $12,349,372 $77,453,302 $12,760 BILLERICA 6084 $69,706,328 $7,125,551 $76,831,879 $12,628 FITCHBURG 5579 $58,344,300 $11,100,356 $69,444,656 $12,447 BRIDGEWATER RAYNHAM 5806 $58,034,044 $7,119,829 $65,153,873 $11,221 WESTFORD 5338 $52,497,334 $7,177,376 $59,674,710 $11,179 BRAINTREE 5654 $54,768,437 $8,419,631 $63,188,068 $11,176 CHELMSFORD 5652 $56,858,181 $5,593,982 $62,452,163 $11,049

And here's how Westford compared to districts with comparable teacher populations in terms of Full Time Equivalency positions (the amount of hours to full one staff member's job.)

DISTRICT Salary Totals Average Salary FTE Count SOMERVILLE $27,088,768 $80,144 338 WELLESLEY $28,138,443 $78,731 357 NEEDHAM $26,999,506 $78,328 345 ATTLEBORO $28,194,489 $77,076 366 SHREWSBURY $25,523,984 $72,532 352 FRANKLIN $28,642,660 $71,127 403 WINCHESTER $21,101,596 $70,128 301 WESTFORD $24,753,858 $69,319 357 FITCHBURG $23,137,984 $69,317 334 MANSFIELD $20,667,473 $68,892 300 MARSHFIELD $22,138,548 $68,434 324 BARNSTABLE $21,855,067 $68,127 321 WOBURN $24,287,549 $66,669 364 MARLBOROUGH $23,168,577 $66,443 349 CHELMSFORD $22,601,526 $66,416 340 NATICK $22,007,976 $66,070 333 MEDFORD $24,962,048 $65,192 383 READING $19,328,334 $64,129 301 MILFORD $19,954,136 $63,956 312 BILLERICA $25,362,376 $63,885 397 BRAINTREE $24,493,151 $63,652 385 AGAWAM $18,947,816 $60,750 312 ARLINGTON $17,536,715 $55,373 317

We will share newer data as soon as it becomes available.

Ghost February 20, 2013 at 11:47 AM
#147 in teacher salaries yet WA constantly is rated by Boston Magazine in the top 20, is a TELLING stat when teachers accuse the town of playing cheap (this goes back to before last year, even in good financial times Westford always said 'wish we could do better' even 15 years ago as new schools were being built left and right). I agree per pupil only tells part of story (no, automatically spending more doesn't guarantee success) BUT the hard reality that we expect teachers to deliver like DCL teacher peers yet pay them with Ayer, Dracut, and well behind even Billerica is just pathetic and insulting. Next time Westford's schools are 'compared' by the School Committee or Superintendant I hope it's to the ones we pay our staff like and not the Lexingtons, Actons, Grotons which we really aren't equivalent to. The reality that our staff works amount the most hours , about a week extra on average, only adds. Thank you Andrew for getting this together! Westford teachers know they got railroaded last year and likely will be work to rule in 0-60 if a fair market value contract isn't presented at the start of negotiations next year!
Jamaal February 20, 2013 at 11:56 AM
Old news, both teachers and residents know we play hard and cheap with our public employees (bang for the buck), love it or leave it this is how we operate here. We like to blow our money on extravagant capital expenditures not staff salary. People are easily replaceable by noobies fresh outta college who don't self advocate who cares if our reputation is becoming one where top teachers don't want to come to?
Jamaal February 20, 2013 at 12:14 PM
Between the treatment of our teachers last year by the school committee, to the treatment of residents constitutional rights by the board of selectmen this year, Westford town leadership sure has found ample ways to totally embarrassing itself. Complete cleaning of house is not only in order, it's long overdue.
Martin Luther February 20, 2013 at 05:05 PM
When are you leaving the employ of the WPS? You could start a trend.
Vincent DiRico February 20, 2013 at 10:08 PM
"discussed over the past year", that is a generous description :O
Alex F February 21, 2013 at 12:37 AM
Last year's antics are just going to be the initial sip of the cool aid compared to what's likely to transpire next year I fear! Get ready to chug by the gallon!
Martin Luther February 25, 2013 at 02:15 AM
How about $700,000 for a piece of paper from a cash strapped homeowner promising not to develop his 20 acres of land. I guess that if you know the right people, you can transfer your financial problems to the town.
Martin Luther February 25, 2013 at 02:27 AM
Andrew! Average salaries are invalid to compare equity between towns. 1. Average salaries in a town will be reduced for a town when the schools encounter a large retirement group like Westford did in 2004 when 52 teachers retired at top step. 2. Average salaries in a own will be increased when there is a layoff because the teachers with less seniority are generally lower on the pay scale. Although teachers like to point out averages of teacher salaries, they should also consider the median family income of the residents of the town, degree the equalized real estate valuation/capita and % of budget paid by either state or federal funds. For instance Lowell has 80+% of its education budget funded by either state or federal funds while Westford's education budget receives about 20% from state and federal sources.
Dan February 25, 2013 at 09:46 AM
So Jesse, who based on your formulas are Westford's 'peers'? Are really more like Billerica, Dracut, Ayer, Lunenburg, than DCL towns? Maybe we are not a truce W Town after all but more of a Status Wanna Be?m
Martin Luther February 25, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Dan, you obviously over estimate the part that teachers play in the test scores like MCAS and SAT. BTW Boston magazine's evaluation criteria takes into account expenditure/pupil, #AP Tests Taken, #AP Scores 3 to 5, # of Xcurricula activities,... It is quite obvious that expenditures/pupil has no impact on the quality of education. For instance Bishop Guertin has always outscored the DCL schools on the SATs. Cost a BG is about 60% of that of Westford Academy. BTW When my som went to BG, religious breakdown was 60% Catholics,30% Protestant and 10% Jewish. If you take time to reflect on your statement, it actually shows why at the local, state and federal level we have gone to a credit card mentality. I wanted I put in on a credit card and kick the card down the road. You work 185, 6 hour days a year with 15 sick days expect to be paid at the same level as an engineer who works 230 days a year with 10 holidays and 20 PTOs which cover vacation and sick days. The average SAT scores for teachers are below the 25 percentile while engineers score above 75 percentile. Longer hours, higher mental abilities and significantly more demanding courses equal higher pay. If you do not like the capability ceiling then get a scientific degree and start a new career. BTW Whining is not acceptable in the technical fields.
chastenedWestfordteacher March 05, 2013 at 12:30 AM
Jesse - congratulations. im very impressed by how you educated yourself on the technical points of engineering, earned a scientific degree on your own, learned how to manipulate statistics with no prior assistance, and truly embraced how to understand someone else's situation with no external guidance. you are a credit to human beings. teachers are clearly unnecessary. if they want to complain, fire them. and since Westford teachers are overrated, just pay to send your kids to BG. you can save that money by refusing to pay taxes to help fund an overrated school system like Westford's. well done.
Martin Luther March 05, 2013 at 03:54 AM
BTW chastenedWestfordteacher Like my hero Steve Jobs, I never received a college degree. I found the professors to be boring and mentally challenged. BG does provide a better ROI than any public school in MA and possibly the US. I am glad that I have brought you to a state of enlightenment. You will be a better person and teacher because of it.
Alex Finnegan April 07, 2013 at 08:15 PM
II proved it in this thread http://westford.patch.com/articles/school-committee-recommends-new-fy-14-budget-to-voters
Alex Finnegan April 07, 2013 at 08:25 PM
Jesse is correct. Thats why I have compared Westford to all it's geographical neighbors and compared number of days worked, insurance split, starting pay, top pay, how long it takes to get to top pay, how many pay scale opportunities you have, school reimbursement etc. Westford is at the bottom of the heap tying with the other bottom 3. When I talk about Westford teachers pay etc being below average, I'm not taking average salary, that would be a seriously flawed method. I'm using data from available contracts. I'll post them below
Alex Finnegan April 07, 2013 at 08:25 PM
Carlisle 185 days $7k-$20k more, extra pay column M + 60 Better insurance split Concord 185 days $17K -23K 3 extra columns Concord/Carlisle 185 days 22k-26k 4 extra columns Tyngsborough within a few hundred dollars of Westford but only work 181 days instead of Westford’s 185, they have 3 extra columns and reach top pay in 12 years instead of Westford’s now 15 years. So essentially, they pay more. Chelmsford 182 days 75/25 insurance split vs. Westfords 65/35 for an equivalent HMO 2-5k less Top pay in 13 years. The better insurance split and few days puts them about a little above Westford, but its so negligible it’s not worth doing the math. Acton $2500-4k less 182 day year, 75/25 insurance split = same as above Littleton 180 days 75/25 They haven’t released pay scale numbers for a while but they are right on par with Westford for the 06-08 years. Top pay in 13 years. Unless they nose dived on pay, they are most likely making more than Westford. Dracut 185 days 10 steps 4 extra columns 5k less. Since I don’t’ know the insurance split it’s hard to compare. They work a lot of days, but make $100 a week less. Even with a generous insurance split it’s very likely they are compensated less than Westford, but they reach top pay 5 years ealier. In the end they fair worse than Westford.


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