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States spending the most and least per student on education

  • States spending the most and least per student on education

    U.S. states and localities pay huge portions of their budgets toward educating their children, and it never seems to be enough. Research consistently finds funding is neither adequate nor equitable, and that students from low-income households, Black students, students with disabilities, and students who do not come from English-speaking homes bear the brunt of those inadequacies and inequities.

    Funding for schools in America stretches dramatically from a low of just $7,628 per student in Utah to a high of more than $24,040 in New York. Some states use progressive taxation such as property taxes, in which taxpayers pay according to the value of their assets. Others turn to regressive levies like sales taxes that apply the same tax rate to rich and poor.

    This year, school funding became all the more challenging when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Businesses closed, schools shut down, and consumer spending dried up, all pointing to severe shortfalls in tax revenues that normally would help keep schools going.

    Many school districts saw their enrollment plummet, as students opted to stay home to avoid the possibility of infection and did not participate in remote learning. Many parents kept their young children out of kindergarten. Unfortunately, many districts’ funding is predicated on their enrollment, so serious cuts ensued. Federal stimulus funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, helped, but they were only temporary.

    To look at school funding, Stacker evaluated the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data—released in April 2020—to determine which states put the most toward their primary and secondary education systems. The 50 states and Washington D.C. are ranked by total spending per pupil in the 2018 fiscal year. Each slide also includes spending breakdowns such as salaries and wage spending, pupil support spending, and general administrative spending to demonstrate exactly how public funds for education are used. Each spending amount is calculated per pupil.

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  • #51. Utah

    - Total spending per pupil: $7,628 (39.5% less than national average)
    - Salaries and wage spending: $4,367 (39.5% less than national average)
    - Employee benefits spending: $2,057 (34.7% less than national average)
    - Pupil support spending: $327 (56.6% less than national average)
    - Instructional staff support spending: $347 (42.4% less than national average)
    - General administrative spending: $81 (65.8% less than national average)

    Utah has ranked last in school funding for as long as the Census Bureau has been keeping a tally—21 years. Last year voters rejected a proposal to add 10 cents a gallon to the state gas tax to raise funds for education.

  • #50. Idaho

    - Total spending per pupil: $7,771 (38.4% less than national average)
    - Salaries and wage spending: $4,627 (35.9% less than national average)
    - Employee benefits spending: $1,663 (47.2% less than national average)
    - Pupil support spending: $457 (39.4% less than national average)
    - Instructional staff support spending: $395 (34.4% less than national average)
    - General administrative spending: $169 (28.7% less than national average)

    Idaho cut $99 million from public school funding in its budget that began on July 1. But the decision was later made to restore the cuts with federal stimulus funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act. The cuts were made in the expectation that state revenues would drop dramatically, but they came in stronger than expected, state officials said.

  • #49. Oklahoma

    - Total spending per pupil: $8,239 (34.7% less than national average)
    - Salaries and wage spending: $4,475 (38% less than national average)
    - Employee benefits spending: $1,606 (49% less than national average)
    - Pupil support spending: $580 (23.1% less than national average)
    - Instructional staff support spending: $326 (45.8% less than national average)
    - General administrative spending: $251 (5.9% more than national average)

    Oklahoma officials say that with rising enrollment and declining revenues due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, they expect to be making deep cuts in next year’s school funding. Oklahoma made cuts in education spending in the 2007–2008 recession and in 2016. It boosted its per-student education funding by 19% when teachers protested in 2018, with money for an average $6,100 pay raise for teachers, their first across-the-board increase in 10 years.

  • #48. Arizona

    - Total spending per pupil: $8,239 (34.7% less than national average)
    - Salaries and wage spending: $4,893 (32.3% less than national average)
    - Employee benefits spending: $1,582 (49.8% less than national average)
    - Pupil support spending: $682 (9.5% less than national average)
    - Instructional staff support spending: $436 (27.6% less than national average)
    - General administrative spending: $150 (36.7% less than national average)

    Arizona, like a handful of other states, increased school spending after teachers protested in 2018. The state from 2008 to 2015 had cut more money from schools than any other state. It also is one of several states that does not deploy funding as a counterweight to poverty. This means it does not add funds in low-income areas, which then have less money for schools. A drop in sales tax revenues due to the coronavirus is expected to force cuts in the next budget. Some educators have said Arizona’s school buildings are in poor condition due to years without enough funding, and some districts have sued the state, claiming it is failing in its legal obligation to maintain the buildings.

  • #47. Mississippi

    - Total spending per pupil: $8,935 (29.2% less than national average)
    - Salaries and wage spending: $5,265 (27.1% less than national average)
    - Employee benefits spending: $1,785 (43.4% less than national average)
    - Pupil support spending: $475 (37% less than national average)
    - Instructional staff support spending: $402 (33.2% less than national average)
    - General administrative spending: $311 (31.2% more than national average)

    This year, Mississippi schools got a financial boost of $170 million under the $2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. Allocation of the money was linked to the rate of low-income students, and the U.S. Department of Education recommended it be spent on remote learning, especially for disadvantaged or at-risk students.

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  • #46. Florida

    - Total spending per pupil: $9,346 (25.9% less than national average)
    - Salaries and wage spending: $5,219 (27.7% less than national average)
    - Employee benefits spending: $1,668 (47.1% less than national average)
    - Pupil support spending: $415 (45% less than national average)
    - Instructional staff support spending: $568 (5.6% less than national average)
    - General administrative spending: $87 (63.3% less than national average)

    Voters in counties across Florida approved sales and property tax increases for education on Nov. 3. The balloting follows 21 ballot initiatives approved in 2018. Organizers of the initiatives say districts are trying to make ends meet and not getting enough money from the state. Enrollment has dropped in many school districts during the coronavirus crisis, and educators have voiced concerns that those districts will see a loss in funding that will lead to layoffs and program cuts.

  • #45. North Carolina

    - Total spending per pupil: $9,377 (25.7% less than national average)
    - Salaries and wage spending: $5,872 (18.7% less than national average)
    - Employee benefits spending: $2,071 (34.3% less than national average)
    - Pupil support spending: $534 (29.2% less than national average)
    - Instructional staff support spending: $330 (45.2% less than national average)
    - General administrative spending: $101 (57.4% less than national average)

    North Carolina lawmakers this fall approved a measure that would keep school districts from being penalized funding-wise by declining enrollment due to the coronavirus pandemic. The measure was aimed at ensuring teachers would not lose their jobs. Protests by teachers in 2018 led the state to increase school funding that it had cut deeply in the 2007–2008 recession. In North Carolina’s 2018–19 school year, state funds comprised two-thirds of the schools’ $13.9 billion operating costs.

  • #44. Nevada

    - Total spending per pupil: $9,417 (25.3% less than national average)
    - Salaries and wage spending: $5,511 (23.7% less than national average)
    - Employee benefits spending: $2,294 (27.2% less than national average)
    - Pupil support spending: $533 (29.3% less than national average)
    - Instructional staff support spending: $539 (10.5% less than national average)
    - General administrative spending: $122 (48.5% less than national average)

    Nevada funds its schools primarily with sales tax revenues, along with property taxes to a lesser extent, as laid out in its 2019 overhaul of its education funding formula. The overhaul measure also created the Nevada Commission on School Funding that is tasked with finding and recommending ways to pay for education. The state has just 17 districts, fewer than is typical of states its size.

  • #43. Tennessee

    - Total spending per pupil: $9,544 (24.3% less than national average)
    - Salaries and wage spending: $5,716 (20.9% less than national average)
    - Employee benefits spending: $1,885 (40.2% less than national average)
    - Pupil support spending: $482 (36.1% less than national average)
    - Instructional staff support spending: $566 (6% less than national average)
    - General administrative spending: $204 (13.9% less than national average)

    A lawsuit challenging the system of funding public schools in Tennessee is slated to go to trial in October 2021 after being filed five years ago. In the suit, school districts in Memphis and Nashville claim the state does not allocate enough money for education, particularly in urban areas. Tennessee’s system came under criticism by a national advocacy group that said its poorer districts have lower staffing, higher student-teacher ratios, and a lack of counselors, social workers, and psychologists.

  • #42. New Mexico

    - Total spending per pupil: $9,582 (24% less than national average)
    - Salaries and wage spending: $5,671 (21.5% less than national average)
    - Employee benefits spending: $2,036 (35.4% less than national average)
    - Pupil support spending: $991 (31.4% more than national average)
    - Instructional staff support spending: $245 (59.3% less than national average)
    - General administrative spending: $204 (13.9% less than national average)

    New Mexico voters approved bonds for education in the Nov. 3 election. The measures included capital improvement funding to tribal schools and schools for hearing and visually impaired students, such as the New Mexico School for the Deaf and the Navajo Technical University, a major tribal college. In 2018, voters also approved bond measures to fund tribal schools, new school buses, and books, electronics and broadband upgrades for public schools. Roughly a quarter of New Mexico’s school-age children live in poverty.

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