K-12 Spending Climbed From 2015 to 2016, NCES Reports

By Daarel Burnette II — May 09, 2019 2 min read
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New historical federal data shows school spending in recent years continued to climb as state and local sales, income and property tax revenue rebounded.

The National Center for Education Statistics this week reported that K-12 revenue was up 3.2 percent between fiscal years 2015 and 2016 and spending in fiscal year 2016 climbed 2.4 percent to around $10,800 per student.

The report provides an annual detailed look at the most recently available federal, state, and local spending on districts across the country. While lagging by three years, it shows that K-12 revenue and spending since the recession continued to tick upward for rural, suburban and urban districts across the country. It comes on the heels of other reports that show that the majority of states this year are on track to provide schools with plenty more revenue as the economy continues to surge.

Despite the fact, teachers, parents and district leaders across the country have continued to complain that the increased spending is not landing in their paycheck. That anger has boiled over this legislative session with teachers in Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina, and in Nashville, Tenn., walking off the job in recent weeks.

District leaders say a confluence of reasons, including dramatic demographic shifts, skyrocketing health-care, pension, and debt costs mean they have struggled to provide teachers with across-the-board pay increases. They also say that local, state, and federal political leaders are not providing enough money for districts to retain and keep quality teachers and keep classroom sizes low, and school buildings safe.

A recent report by the Albert Shanker Institute said that while states currently spend on average around $13,000 on high-poverty school districts, states, they should be spending more than $20,000 on those districts.

“There is now widespread agreement, backed by research, that we cannot improve education outcomes without providing schools—particularly schools serving disadvantaged student populations—with the resources necessary for doing so,” the authors concluded. “Put simply: we can’t decide how best to spend money for schools unless schools have enough money to spend.”

But conservatives have continued to complain that the property, sales, and income taxes those school districts are most dependent on are too high and that districts are wasting the money they have.

In Wake County, North Carolina, where there has been a knock-down fight this month over how much more money the local school district should get this fall, state Senate leader Harry Brown, a Republican, said in a press release, “They had 42 new students and received $27 million extra dollars last school year. The unfortunate residents that this school board is trying to tax into oblivion deserve to know just what exactly Wake County is spending all this money on.”

Other findings in the NCES report include:

  • Among the nation’s 100 largest districts, Jordan School District in Utah spent the least per-student at $6,175, and New York City spent the most at $24,109 per student.
  • In 2016, school districts received $55.6 billion from the federal government, a 1 percent increase from 2015. Title I funds accounted for a quarter of those funds, or $14 billion, and special education programs accounted for 20 percent of the funds, or $11.2 billion.
  • School districts in 2016 spent $58.3 billion on school facilities in 2016. Of that money, school districts spent $44.6 billion on new facilities.

Read the entire report here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.