Education From Our Research Center

The Nation Spends $649 Billion on K-12. How Much Does Your State Spend?

By Daarel Burnette II — January 09, 2018 1 min read
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American taxpayers spent close to $649 billion on its K-12 schools in 2015. That’s according to a new survey released by the National Center for Education Statistics.

That’s up 3 percent from the $628 billion the country spent in fiscal year 2014, according to the Jan. 9 report (that does not include facilities costs).

Education Week’s Research Center put together a searchable database to help you find out how much your state spends (scroll to the bottom).

While that may sound like a lot of money, local school district officials frequently complain that it’s still not enough to cover the increasing day-to-day expenses of operating schools. That includes paying for qualified teachers, extracurricular activities, and technology, all the things parents—and colleges’ admissions officers—demand today. And this year, even though many states are proposing to keep statewide school spending steady or even increase it, many local districts will see budget cuts, a phenomenon I wrote about in 2016 in a profile of an urban superintendent in Iowa.

Interesting fact: America spent $601 billion on its military in 2015.

NCES surveyed all 50 state education agencies to gather detailed inforfmation about school revenue. Among its findings:


  • State and local governments provide the bulk of education K-12 funding. In 2015, state and local governments spent $594 billion, or 91 percent of all K-12 revenue.
  • States spent on average $12,903 per student. But that ranges dramatically. New York spends on average $20,744 per student, while Utah spends $6,751.
  • Schools’ biggest costs were salaries and wages. In 2015, states spent $459 billion, or 80 percent of its money, went to paying pensions and salaries.

The graphic below, compiled by the Education Week Research Center, gives more-detailed information about local, state, and federal education spending.

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

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