Budget & Finance

Track the Ebb and Flow of Public School Spending in 50 States

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 29, 2015 1 min read
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The Great Recession might be more than six years in the rearview mirror, and the economy might soon be good enough for the Federal Reserve to decide to raise interest rates. But K-12 spending still sparks a lot of angst and debate. The folks at EdSource have put together a tool to help put states’ public school spending in perspective.

Using information from the National Center for Education Statistics and several other sources, the nonprofit website that focuses on California education has created an interactive chart that lets you compare per-student spending on K-12 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. (The spending statistics are inflation-adjusted to 2014 dollars, and include federal, state, and local funding sources, but not debt service or facility funding.)

For example, in keeping with its focus on the Golden State, EdSource draws on its interactive chart to report that, “In 1977—before Proposition 13 severely restricted property tax levies—California’s per-student spending on ‘current instruction’ was the 7th-highest in the nation. By the 2010-11 school year, it had fallen to 38th, at $10,051 per student (in 2014 dollars).”

EdSource goes one step further by highlighting not just per-student spending figures per year, but how much spending rose and fell during a single student’s 13 years in a K-12 system. On average, in 1982, that student received $78,000 in funding over his or her time in K-12 in 2014 dollars; in 2010, that figure had risen to $147,000. There’s a time-lapse feature on this second chart that allows you to see how the states fluctuate in terms of their relative spending.

You should also check out the EdSource page for similar charts on information like teacher pay, spending on education as a proportion of personal income per capita, and scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

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