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How Much are School Systems Spending on our Children’s Education?

Thu May 22 2014
Mark Dixon
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For decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has collected data on how governments and school systems spend money on education, and the resulting statistics allow policymakers to see trends.

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Current spending per pupil generally increased over the last decade with a slowing of growth for fiscal year 2009 and FY 2010. Current spending per pupil increased slightly from $10,600 in FY 2010 to $10,608 in FY 2011, an increase of only eight dollars from the prior year. Recently released Census Bureau data show spending per pupil in FY 2012 was $10,608, the same amount as the previous year.

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Total expenditures of public elementary-secondary school systems decreased slightly (0.4 percent) from $596.3 billion in FY 2011 to $593.8 billion in FY 2012. This is the third straight year (and third year overall) that total expenditures decreased since the Census Bureau began collecting this data annually in 1977.  What contributed to this decline? School systems in this country spent $2.2 billion less on capital outlays such as construction and equipment expenditures, a 4.2 percent decrease from FY 2011. Many other expenditure categories showed only slight increases from the prior year, including employee benefits (2.0 percent increase) and support services expenditures (0.3 percent increase). Spending on instruction decreased 0.4 percent, while spending on salaries and wages decreased by 0.9 percent.

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These recently released data provide the ability to compare the financial activity of public elementary and secondary school systems across states.  In addition to school system spending data, the annual Public Education Finances report provides information on the revenues, debt and assets of our nation’s school systems.

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Although current spending per pupil for the country as a whole did not change in FY 2012, 29 states showed increases, while 21 states and the District of Columbia showed decreases.

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The states (or state equivalent) with the most spending per pupil were New York ($19,552); the District of Columbia ($17,468), which comprises a single urban district; Alaska ($17,390); New Jersey ($17,266); and Connecticut ($16,274).

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The states with the least spending per pupil were Utah ($6,206), Idaho ($6,659), Oklahoma ($7,466), Arizona ($7,559) and Mississippi ($8,164).

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For more details on the finances of public elementary-secondary schools systems, read the full Public Education Finances: 2012 report.

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