Budget & Finance

Census Report: How the Public Pays for its Schools

By Debra Viadero — June 30, 2010 1 min read
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Public school systems spent an average of $10,259 per pupil in 2008—a 6.1 percent increase over the previous year, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

As usual, the report notes that public education is the largest single category of state and local government expenditures. From all sources, public school systems received $582.1 billion in funding in 2008, the report says, but spent $593.2 billion.

What I found particularly interesting was the report’s breakdown showing how much each level of government contributes to that $582-billion revenue pot. It says state government kicked in 48.3 percent, followed by local governments, which contributed 43.7 percent. The remaining 8.1 percent came from the feds. Keep in mind these figures are for 2008, before the U.S. Department of Education began distributing economic-stimulus aid to states.

The biggest spenders, on a per pupil basis, were: New York ($17,173); New Jersey (16,491); Alaska ($14,630); the District of Columbia ($14,594); and Vermont ($14,300.)

At the other end of the scale were: Utah ($5,765); Idaho ($6,931); Arizona ($7,608); Oklahoma ($7,685); and Tennessee ($7,739).

So where did all that money come from? At the local level, property taxes accounted for 63.7 percent of revenue for public school systems. There’s lots more data to be found here.

UPDATE: Several readers have informed me that the link to the Census page is broken. Try this one.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.