In the US, states spent an average of $10,700 per student on education in 2013, according to the US Census Bureau records, but that average covers up wide variations that exist from state to state. The number spent per student for children in Utah was $6,555, but went as high as $19,818 in New York, writes Emma Brown of The Washington Post.
Among the country’s largest 100 school districts, the range of per student spending is even wider. Jordan, Utah spends $5,708 per pupil, but Boston, MA is at the high end at $20,502. Naturally, the amount varies according to the differences in cost of living across the nation, which also affects other aspects of public education such as teacher salaries, building costs, and the amount needed to maintain school facilities.
Politics play a role as well. The decisions made by lawmakers can influence how much is spent on schools, and control the amount spent in the effort to even out spending for high- and low-income areas. Education spending, as shown by federal data, reveals an ever-expanding gap between the country’s poorest and wealthiest school districts.
Utah has more school-age children than most other states, says Utah State Office of Education spokesman Mark Peterson, which explains the state’s low-end spending per student. As for New York, the city and state have consistently spent thousands more statewide than the national average. States with the same type of educational lobbies and union power do not spend nearly as much as New York State, writes Nicole Gorman, reporting for EducationWorld.
These findings come from the Census Bureau’s report “Public Education Finances: 2013” and provide figures on revenues, expenditures, debt, and assets for US elementary and secondary public school systems as reported in a Census Bureau press release.
“These statistics provide researchers, policymakers and the public with a picture of the nation’s public school system education revenue and spending,” said Stephen Wheeler, an analyst with the Census Bureau’s Educational Finance Branch. “These data are used in a variety of important economic measures such as the Department of Education’s Title I Grants and the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ gross domestic product measure.”
States spending most on students, other than New York, were: Alaska ($18,175), the District of Columbia ($17,953), New Jersey ($17,572), and Connecticut ($16, 631). Those spending the least per student included: Utah ($6,555), Idaho ($6,791), Arizona ($7,208), Oklahoma ($7,672), and Mississippi ($8,130).
The top school districts for for pupil spending, excluding Boston, were: New York City School District ($20,331), Anchorage School District ($15,419), Montgomery County Schools in Maryland ($15,080) and Baltimore City Schools ($15,050).
Total US public school spending for fiscal year 2013 amounted to $596.3 billion, which was 0.5% more than the year before. This figure ended the three-year trend of decreasing total spending for schools.
Categories of spending for public education include instructional spending, support service spending, capital outlay, and others. Total school district debt rose by 3.2%. In fiscal year 2012, total debt was $402.2 billion and in 2013 it was $415.2 billion.