The National Center for Education Statistics has changed its definition of what constitutes an instructional cost, making it easier for states to declare they allocate 65 percent or more for instructional costs, as called for under a policy idea that backers have dubbed the “65 percent solution.”
In financial data released last month, the NCES reported that 30 states spent 65 percent or more of their K-12 education dollars on classroom and other instructional costs in the 2003-04 school year, compared with just two in 2002-03.
The dramatic difference occurred because the NCES for the first time counted the salaries of librarians as an instructional expense. As in the past, pay for guidance counselors, social workers, and other support employees is not counted as instructional.
The new definition from the U.S. Department of Education’s statistics agency is significant because an independent political group is mounting state-based efforts to require districts to spend at least 65 percent of their budgets on instructional costs. The group, First Class Education, urges states to use NCES data to establish a common definition.
Overall, the 50 states and the District of Columbia allotted 66.1 percent of K-12 budgets for instructional purposes in 2003-04, the NCES reported.
A version of this article appeared in the August 09, 2006 edition of Education Week