School & District Management

In Short

March 28, 2001 1 min read

Analysts often gauge the federal government’s support for education by the size of the U.S. Department of Education’s budget.

But those funds represent only a small part of total federal spending on education. A report in the winter issue of Education Statistics Quarterly offers a reminder of just how small.

The journal is put out by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. In it, researcher Charlene M. Hoffman points out that the $40.7 billion that Uncle Sam spent on the department in the 2000 fiscal year represented only about a third of total federal spending on education, which came to $122.7 billion that year.

For More Information

The full report, “Federal Support for Education: Fiscal Years 1980 to 2000,” is available from the NCES.

The total figure includes education-related money that went to other agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as “off budget’’ funds, such as the loan capital the federal government provides through national student-loan programs.

From 1990 to 2000, Ms. Hoffman found, Education Department funding rose 39 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. But total federal support for education increased even more—by 55 percent—over that period.

After the Education Department, the next-biggest federal spender on education was the HHS Department, which provided $16.5 billion for education in fiscal 2000. Next on the list was the U.S. Department of Agriculture with $10.8 billion. Much of that went for the federal school lunch and breakfast programs.

Yet as big as the federal education pie is, it still represents only a small share of all school spending in this country. Ms. Hoffman notes, for example, that the estimated federal share of expenditures on elementary and secondary schools declined from 12 percent in fiscal 1980 to 9 percent two decades later.

—Debra Viadero


Coverage of research is underwritten in part by a grant from the Spencer Foundation.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2001 edition of Education Week as In Short

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