Appendix D: Model Cost Estimate for Education of Children in Foster Care and State Care.

The model gives an estimate of how much it may cost the state to cover the cost of educating children in foster care and state care.

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We recognize that better data will contribute to a more credible estimate of the cost of fully funding the range of education services required for the success of these students.

​​​​​​​A simple model to estimate cost

There are over 6,800 students in foster care in the Commonwealth. To calculate the cost of educating those students, we selected Pittsfield, a district about the same size in terms of enrollment as the population of students in foster care. We believed that Pittsfield was appropriate as it is in the lowest tenth of districts in terms of income, which makes its demographics similar to those of children in foster care. In fiscal year 2017, the per-pupil expenditure in Pittsfield was $15,790.17.48 This includes general expenditures, grants, and revolving funds covering in-district services. Given the high percentage of students with special needs among the population of foster children, this estimate may be low for per-pupil expenditure. However, this represents a good starting point in the absence of the detailed data that is called for in the report. The estimate would be:

Cost estimate for districts             $15,790.17 * 6,800 = $107,373,156

Less current state aid      $34,000,000 + $17,000,000 = $51,000,000

Net cost of the recommendation (at a minimum) = $56,000,000

As we state in the report, there is a wide range of services required to properly support the educational achievement of these students. This involves intense attention from pupil services, guidance, and mental health staff, as well as teachers and aides in the classrooms. The total shown is an estimate of the cost of providing these services and reimbursing school districts for their provision. Some of this money is already spent, as students do appear in the foundation enrollment for school districts. Students are also counted in their district’s allocation for special education and economically disadvantaged students. The current average state aid per pupil in the Commonwealth is roughly $5,000, or in this case $34,000,000 (across 6,800 students). The average for these students may be higher given the high number of students with special needs and economically disadvantaged students. Moreover, the Commonwealth is offsetting expenses related to high-cost special education services. In the previous fiscal year, that amounted to over $17,000,000 for a range of students including those in foster care, homeless students, and students in state custody. This means the estimate for the net cost of this recommendation could be $56,000,000 (plus or minus) annually. This calculation does not include money for the required transportation services.


48. Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Per Pupil Expenditure Details, 2018

Date published: April 23, 2019