Education spending, per pupil, apples to apples

Utah rejected education vouchers last November, so the release from the Census bureau at the first of April probably got overlooked as not exactly important — I saw no major story on it in any medium.

Education spending chart from U.S. Census BureauMaybe it was the April 1 release date.

Whatever the reason for the lack of recognition, the figures are out from the Census Bureau, and Utah’s at the bottom end of spending per student lists, in the U.S. I wrote earlier that Utah gets a whale of a bargain, since teachers work miracles with the money they have. But miracles can only go so far. Utah’s educational performance has been sliding for 20 years. Investment will be required to stop the slide.

Utah’s per pupil spending is closer to a third that of New York’s.

Of course, spending levels do not guarantee results. New York and New Jersey lead the pack, but the District of Columbia comes in third place. Very few people I know would swap an education in Idaho, Utah or Arizona, the bottom three in per pupil spending, for an education in D.C.

Public Schools Spent $9,138 Per Student in 2006

School districts in the United States spent an average of $9,138 per student in fiscal year 2006, an increase of $437 from 2005, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released today.

Public Education Finances: 2006 offers a comprehensive look at the revenues and expenditures of public school districts at the national and state levels. The report includes detailed tables that allow for the calculation of per pupil expenditures. Highlights from these tables include spending on instruction, support services, construction, salaries and benefits of the more than 15,000 school districts. Public school districts include elementary and secondary school systems.

All the census statistics are on-line, for free. Policy makers can mine these data for insights — will they? You may download the data in spreadsheet or comma-delimited data form.

The rest of the press release is pure policy talking points:

  • Public school systems received $521.1 billion in funding from federal, state and local sources in 2006, a 6.7 percent increase over 2005. Total expenditures reached $526.6 billion, a 6 percent increase. (See Table 1.)
  • State governments contributed the greatest share of funding to public school systems (47 percent), followed by local sources (44 percent) and the federal government (9 percent). (See Table 5.)
  • School district spending per pupil was highest in New York ($14,884), followed by New Jersey ($14,630) and the District of Columbia ($13,446). States where school districts spent the lowest amount per pupil were Utah ($5,437), Idaho ($6,440) and Arizona ($6,472). (See Tables 8 and 11.)
  • Of the total expenditures for elementary and secondary education, current spending made up $451 billion (85.7 percent) and capital outlay $59 billion (11.2 percent). (See Table 1.)
  • From current spending, school districts allotted $271.8 billion to elementary and secondary instruction. Of that amount, $184.4 billion (68 percent) went to salaries and $58.5 billion went to employee benefits (22 percent). Another $156 billion went to support services. (See Table 6.)
  • Of the $156 billion spent on support services, 28 percent went to operations and maintenance, and 5 percent went to general administration. Of the states that used 10 percent or more of their support services on general administration expenditures, North Dakota topped the list at 14 percent. General administration includes the activities of the boards of education and the offices of the superintendent. (See Table 7.)
  • Of the $59 billion in capital outlay, $45 billion (77 percent) was spent on construction, $5 billion (8 percent) was spent on land and existing structures, and $8.7 billion (15 percent) went to equipment. (See Table 9.)
  • State government contributions per student averaged $5,018 nationally. Hawaii had the largest revenue from state sources per pupil ($13,301). South Dakota had the least state revenue per student ($2,922). (See Table 11.)
  • The percentage of state government financing for public education was highest in Hawaii (89.9 percent) and lowest in Nebraska (31.4 percent). (See Table 5.)
  • The average contribution per pupil from local sources was $4,779, with the highest amount from the District of Columbia ($16,195), which comprises a single urban district (and therefore does not receive state financing). The state with the smallest contribution from local sources was Hawaii ($265). (See Table 11).
  • The percentage of local revenue for school districts was highest in Illinois (59.1 percent) and lowest in Hawaii (1.8 percent). (See Table 5.)
  • On average, the federal government contributed $974 per student enrolled in public school systems. Federal contributions ranged from $2,181 per student in Alaska to $627 in Nevada (See Table 11).
  • The percentage of public school system revenues from the federal government was highest in Mississippi (20.1 percent) and lowest in New Jersey (4.3 percent). (See Table 5.)
  • Spending on transportation represented 12.4 percent of support services. New York and West Virginia spent the largest percent from support services on transportation (21 percent). Hawaii (5.4 percent) and California (7.2 percent) spent the least. (See Table 7.)
  • Total school district debt increased by 8.5 percent from the prior year to $322.7 billion in fiscal year 2006. (See Table 10.)
  • Send an apple to your old teacher:

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21 Responses to Education spending, per pupil, apples to apples

  1. Nick K says:

    Dan, one of the questions you should ask is this:

    There’s a charter school in my state called TIZA which the right wing in this state loves to accuse of teaching Islam using public money.

    Now…in light of their objection to that the reason we should send public money to private Christian schools is what?

    What does supposedly helping the few do to fix the problem for everyone? How are you going to improve public schools by stripping them of resources? Oh and please don’t claim we’re increasing spending on public schools, the fact that i know of public school teachers using money from their own pocketbooks to pay for classroom supplies is proof that claim is nonsense.

    Then you can ask yourself exactly how are you going to attract and keep the best teachers when your side of the political fence treats them as “enemies of the United States”?


  2. Nick K says:

    To quote:
    If not, what on earth does anyone suggest? Increased funding? Smaller classes? More resources? Have we not been doing all that for decades amidst stagnant results?

    Your political side has been cutting funding, cutting resources and increasing class sizes for the better part of the last 40 years and for damn sure the last 10 years. And why? Well besides an abject hatred of public schools theres the fact that your political side loves giving out stupid tax cuts.

    Has the situation improved? No. In fact the results have not only stagnated they’ve regressed.

    Since your “solution” isn’t an solution and since cutting infrastructure isn’t going to keep the United States economically prosperous…and neither is cutting taxes foolishly going to bring prosperity to this country perhaps you’d like to stop advocating that which you know damn well doesn’t work?

    THere are several countries in which the government does nothing, spends nothing ande taxes nothing.

    One of those countries is called Somalia.

    If you want to live in such a society then I suggest you move to such a country. Because you have no right to attempt to turn the United States into a larger version of it.


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    If not, what on earth does anyone suggest? Increased funding? Smaller classes? More resources? Have we not been doing all that for decades amidst stagnant results?

    No, we haven’t.

    We got increased funding, significantly, between about 1957 and 1965, and that boosted a lot of learning. Since then, spending has not increased significantly with regard to inflation, and federal support for elementary and secondary education was dramatically cut in the Reagan administration, from about 15% of spending, in each district average, to less than 7%. Local funding increases have paced inflation in many places, but fallen way behind in states like Texas, California and Utah.

    So, no, we haven’t dramatically increased funding to the classrooms.

    Studies on classroom size said that significant improvements begin to show up at 18 students, but really show up at 15 students. No state has gone that far. Texas has a law that says classes must not average more than 22 students, but there has never been funding to get the average below 25 — and 22 is still about 150% of the classroom size you need to improve student performance.

    So, no, we haven’t reduced classroom sizes.

    More resources? What in the world are you talking about?

    It used to be that teachers made their own worksheets. Textbook sales include ready-made worksheets, in “consumable” student books. But purchases of those books is usually delayed so they don’t arrive at the classroom until midway through the year, too late to incorporate in the curriculum. So teachers ended up making their own.

    Then some districts introduced computers. But, as in one of my former districts, their was no money to purchase computer curriculum, so the teachers ended up making their own, at greatly increased times.

    There are some great advantages to office automation, but just as education missed the boat on television, mostly it has missed the boat on computer usage in elementary and secondary schools.

    Libraries have been dramatically cut back. Music and art in most districts have been dramatically cut back or eliminated. Recess and Physical education have been cut back or eliminated.

    So, no, there aren’t “new resources” for teachers in core areas, for the most part.

    Stagnant results? We’ve been cutting back on classroom support and teacher resources, and teacher time, for years. If results are not crashing, it’s because teachers are the saviors of education.

    Pay them more. That will increase the pool of attractive, competent and superior students who want to get into teaching, it will keep the better teachers in longer, and it will give principals a larger pool of good teachers to choose from.

    Insanity is when you keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Criminal madness is cutting back on the things that are needed for good results, and claiming those who save your bacon are just “stagnant.”

    You’ve not been in a school in how many years?

    School vouchers are likely an imperfect solution, but I have yet to hear a fair, honest explanation for why we should do nothing (or just keep doing what we’ve been doing).

    School vouchers don’t work, and they don’t work at a high price to public schools. Vouchers suck resources from the schools that need the money most. Vouchers have never been shown to produce superior results — no nation that bests us in the international rankings uses vouchers, and most of them use public schooling almost exclusively. While “free market” champion Milton Friedman advocated vouchers, he was unable to offer examples of where vouchers had produced results that we need. Vouchers were not piloted to any great success, anywhere — they are not a product of free market competition in their creation. Can you tell us where vouchers have improved performance in more than a handful of students?

    Here in Dallas our Dallas ISD public schools are bearing the voucher suckers in almost every category. Why should we take money from struggling, but succeeding public schools, to fund private schools in a massive experiment that is, face it, not likely to work after failures in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. (under Michelle Rhee!), Milwaukee, and every where else it’s been tried?

    That’s not an attempt to improve education. That’s war on children. It’s war against America’s future.


  4. Nick K says:

    Dan you want the reason vouchers are stupid? Besides the fact that they don’t work and leave the public schools you’re taking the money from in worse shape for the children that aren’t part of your chosen few?

    Because its an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state. My tax money should go to support religious private schools…why?

    Oh and as far as Minnesota goes..there’s this from Article 13 of Minnesota’s state constitution:

    Prohibition as to aiding sectarian school. In no case shall any public money or property be appropriated or used for the support of schools wherein the distinctive doctrines, creeds or tenets of any particular Christian or other religious sect are promulgated or taught.

    Oopsie, you lose.


  5. Jim says:

    Hi there Dan!

    I think you make some excellent points. Public education these days is beset with problems. I would further agree that simply “throwing more money” at the system is an insufficient response.

    That said, I don’t hear Ed or any informed person making that argument. Conservatives CLAIM that is our position. But, as is often the case in debate, that is a complete distortion.

    Spending matters. And just as costs have increased in every sphere of life, so have the costs of education gone up. Of course we need to spend more to educate our children. The argument that we need to spend less is dead on arrival in terms of having substance and common sense behind it.

    That said, I think the Clintonian notion (which he applied to affirmative action, but I apply elsewhere) of “mended, not ended” is useful. The public education system needs mending. And more money alone, while certainly helpful, is not a panacea. We need more accountablity — yes, for teachers and administrators. But also for parents and the students themselves. There needs, for example, to be a renewed effort aimed at youth to make erudition and scholarship cool and powerful. Stories of children being beaten or ridiculed because they are bookish or “brainiacs” are not mere urban legends, especially in the minority community. Young people need more role models like Dr. Ben Carson and Dr. Cornel West. And fewer like Lady Gaga and Kobe Bryant. But, of course, such a concerted public campaign aimed at attitude change will require more spending. LOTS of it. And beyond that, the kids — who are not dummies, really — need to know that the folks who are preaching values have their backs. It’s one thing to use the bully pulpits of elective office, TV, Radio, music and the internet to preach that academia is cool. It’s quite another thing then for the kids to arrive at school and find that we don’t really mean it. Will we put our money where our collective mouth is?

    As to vouchers, I have long said that I will support them. If and when I can be shown that vouchers truly help the poor and disenfranchised. Oh, I know that is what the pro-voucher folks claim. But so far, I have yet to encounter a voucher program that helps anyone but the middle class. I grant that middle class people have a hard time affording private education. I grant that a voucher can help them. But it must also be conceded that they don’t really need the help…at least, not nearly as desperately as the parents of poor, urban and minority children.

    Just who will be helped by a $500 dollar voucher or tax credit? The middle class. Give the poor such a voucher and it gets them one step closer to being able to afford a private school. But they are still ten miles away. In other words, it’s a drop in the bucket.

    Meanwhile, the money earmarked for these vouchers — well intended though it be — is siphoned away from the schools where the poor must send their children. Because their dream is still so far out of reach. Vouchers do not help, I am sorry to say.

    Charter schools have been an abysmal failure here in Indiana. I can’t speak to other states.

    So what’s left?

    A new conversation about public education. With all sides owning up to their shortcomings and recommitting themselves to education as a top priority. It’s not a new solution. It’s anything but sexy or trendy. I realize most conservatives find it tiresome, because such a solution defies short attention spans and simplistic, feelgood answers. I realize, too, that it makes all of us — liberal and conservative — squirm.

    Because it requires sacrifice. More taxes. More volunteerism. More parental supervision. More parental, student and business involvement in the school system. And less television and video gaming.

    Can we do it? Of course. Will we? I highly doubt it.


  6. Dan says:

    Sputnik? Jim Crow Laws?

    You’re going to THOSE lengths to explain the endless rising costs for public school education?

    Is your argument that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the education system? If so, there is no reason to discuss.

    If not, what on earth does anyone suggest? Increased funding? Smaller classes? More resources? Have we not been doing all that for decades amidst stagnant results?

    School vouchers are likely an imperfect solution, but I have yet to hear a fair, honest explanation for why we should do nothing (or just keep doing what we’ve been doing).


  7. GOD says:

    Why are humans so stupid like this guy below me


  8. GOD says:

    i have a problem…and a solution..underage drinking..solution…we put all de alchohol in a big bucket so da small peeps cant touch it no more


  9. Nick K says:

    To quote:
    . . .spending on K-12 education has nearly quadrupled in constant dollars since 1950…

    How much of that was to deal with the costs of integration after the ending of the Jim Crow and the so called “separate but equal” nonsense.

    Then how much of it was to deal with all those standarized tests that the Republicans so love to think constitutes teaching.


  10. Ed Darrell says:

    . . .spending on K-12 education has nearly quadrupled in constant dollars since 1950…

    How much of that was spending to catch up to where we should be, spurred after 1957 by the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik? How much increase came under the National Defense Education Act, which boosted spending so we could defend the nation?

    How much of that would you like rolled back?


  11. Ed Darrell says:

    2008 figures are here:

    2010 figures should be there when they are available.

    I would have sworn I saw a release of the 2010 figures, though — still looking.


  12. Public Schools Spent $9,138 Per Student in 2006

    what about 2010?


  13. […] Education spending, per pupil, apples to apples […]


  14. Nick Kelsier says:

    And once again Jeff focuses on one little thing in his attempt to bash unions while ignoring all the other variables that are at play when it comes to education funding.

    But tell me, Jeff, if you could make $35,000 a year teaching or $60,000+ a year doing some other job that has the same educational level requirements which would you choose?

    Because I have 5 relatives that are teachers now or are retired teachers. All were part of the teachers union in my state. And yet I make more then all of them. And I am 5 years younger then the youngest of them and near 50 years younger then the oldest of them.


  15. Ed Darrell says:

    As if “the unions” got any of the increase.

    Unions? In education? Most states don’t allow them. Do you also worry about purple people eaters?

    These statistics are straight up, from the U.S. Census Bureau. Jeff, you demonstrate once again the lengths to which people will go to deny the simple facts.


  16. Jeff says:

    Eh dishonesty on this topic as usual- the unions are problem as spending on K-12 education has nearly quadrupled in constant dollars since 1950…


  17. Ed Darrell says:

    Is it? Which dollar gives society the biggest bang for the buck?

    Which dollar spent is an investment in the future? Which one is 100% waste, by Phil Crosby’s definitions of quality?

    Which dollar is likely to produce more returns in the form of increased tax revenue?

    The toughest question is this: On which side of the ledger does money being spent mean no money has to be spent on the other side?


  18. moneyman says:

    If you think for a minute, per capita spending on prisoners has to be higher than per capita spending on students. Students are in school for ~8 hours while prisoners are in prison for 24 hours — including weekends. So spending 3x more per prisoner while providing meals and medical? Thats darn efficient.


  19. bernarda says:

    Another report on prison spending with some comparisons to education spending.

    “Between 1987 and last year, states increased their higher education spending by 21 percent, in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to the Pew Center on the States. During the same period, spending on corrections jumped by 127 percent.

    In the Northeastern states, according to the Pew report, prison spending over the past 20 years has risen 61 percent, while higher education spending has declined by 5.5 percent.”


  20. bernarda says:

    Just a few examples, New York and Arizona spend three times more on a prisoner than a student. Utah spends four times more on a prisoner.


  21. bernarda says:

    Even the lowest spending states spend more than that on incarceration.

    “Though the Northeast boasts the lowest
    incarceration rates, it has the highest costs
    per prisoner, led by Rhode Island ($44,860),
    Massachusetts ($43,026) and New York
    ($42,202). The lowest costs are generally in
    the South, led by Louisiana ($13,009),
    Alabama ($13,019) and South Carolina

    Click to access PSPP_prison_projections_0207.pdf

    “The central questions are ones of
    effectiveness and cost. Total national
    spending on corrections has jumped to more
    than $60 billion from just $9 billion in 1980, and yet recidivism rates have barely changed.
    More than half of released prisoners are back
    behind bars within three years.”

    I would think there would be better ways of spending money.


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