NCES Report: Schools are Spending Less Per Pupil

A new report by the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) reveals district-level data on revenues and expenditures for public elementary and secondary education for school year 2008-2009, which shows that per pupil expenditures appear to be going down.

The report shows that average current expenditures per pupil were $9,791 in 2009. Compared to 2007–08, where current expenditures per student in fall enrollment were $10,297 in unadjusted dollars.

When adjusting for inflation that means that current expenditures decreased by 1 percent or more in 6 states and increased by 1 percent or more in 38 states from 2008 to 2009.

School districts had total expenditures of approximately $596.6 billion in 2007–08, including about $506.8 billion in current expenditures for public elementary and secondary education, says the NCES in an earlier report.

In a comparison of regular noncharter school districts and independent charter school districts, expenditures per pupil ranged from $6,906 in Utah to $16,408 in the District of Columbia for noncharters, and from $4,492 in South Carolina to $14,767 in the District of Columbia for independent charters.

In 2008, nearly $65.8 billion was spent on capital outlay, almost $15.7 billion on interest payments on debt, and $8.3 billion on other programs (including programs such as community services and adult education, which are not a part of public elementary and secondary education).

Expenditures per student in fall enrollment at public schools rose during the 1980s, with an increase of 37 percent from 1980–81 to 1990–91.

It then remained stable during the first part of the 1990s with a change of less than 1 percent. But it then rose again after 1992–93 with an increase of 32 percent from 1994–95 to 2007–08.

In 2007–08, some 55 percent of students in public schools were transported at public expense at a cost of $854 per pupil transported.

The First Look report is a product of the National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences, part of the U.S. Department of Education.