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Stat of the Week — Dec. 15, 2006

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Trends in Current Education Expenditures

The National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education recently released a report about revenues and expenditures on public elementary and secondary schools in the United States. The report provides detailed information about expenditures by function and state. Using data from the present and previous NCES reports, this Stat of the Week looks at the percentage allocated to instruction and instruction-related activities in fiscal year 2004, as well as trends in total current education expenditures* by function for four consecutive school years beginning in the 1999-2000 school year.

Findings show that current expenditures for the country's public elementary and secondary schools in fiscal year 2004 totaled $403.4 billion, of which 66 percent, or $266.6 billion, was spent on instruction and instruction-related activities. Because the reference period in 2004 changed from school year to fiscal year, as did the categories themselves, comparisons with previous years cannot be made.

Total current expenditures increased by 11 percent during the previous four-year period, from $348 billion (adjusted for inflation) in the 1999-2000 school year to $388 billion in the 2002-03 school year. The percentage of current expenditures allocated specifically to instruction remained relatively constant during this time period, hovering between 61 and 62 percent, and the costs themselves also increased by 11 percent, from $215 billion (adjusted for inflation) in the 1999-2000 school year, to $238 billion in the 2002-03 school year.

In fiscal year 2004, the percentage of current expenditures allocated to instruction and instruction-related activities ranged from a low of 60.5 percent in Oklahoma to a high of 71.2 percent in New York, with the U.S. average being 66.1 percent. Most of the states in the northeastern region tended to spend a higher percentage of current expenditures on instruction and instruction-related activities as compared to the U.S. average, with many of the Southern states falling below the mean.

* NCES defines current expenditures in education as follows: Current expenditures represent the day-to-day operation of schools and include all costs except those associated with repaying debts, capital outlays (e.g., purchases of land, school construction and repair, and equipment), and programs outside the scope of prekindergarten to 12th grade, such as adult education, community colleges, and community services. Expenditures for items lasting more than 1 year (e.g., school buses and computers) are not included in current expenditures.

To find out more about school finance in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, access the Education Counts database.

Total Current Education Expenditures by Function: 1999-2000 to 2002-03 (adjusted for inflation)

*Click image to see the full chart.

Percentage of Total Current Education Expenditures Spent On Instruction and Instruction-Related Activities
Fiscal Year 2004

*Click image to see the full chart.


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