Education Funding

What America Spends on K-12: The Latest Federal Snapshot

By Mark Lieberman — May 11, 2022 2 min read
Money good size
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The financial effects of the pandemic wave that crashed into schools in March 2020 are still coming into focus—but new data offer a glimpse at the state of play as the crisis was revving up.

America invested $795 billion in local, state, and federal money on its K-12 public schools for the 2019-20 school year, according to new annual federal school spending data released Wednesday. That figure is roughly comparable to the federal government’s $700 billion defense budget that year, and represents a 1.5 percent increase in overall school district revenue compared with the previous fiscal year.

Roughly 93 percent of that money came from state and local sources, with the federal government contributing the rest through programs like Title I, Impact Aid for schools that serve students who live on federal land, and Indian Education, for Native American students. The percentage of state and local funds in that total increased relative to the previous year.

The data, drawn from the annual National Public Education Financial Survey distributed each year by the U.S. Department of Education, include only a tiny portion of the $30 billion allocated to schools in March 2020 through the CARES Act pandemic relief package.

Roughly $537 million, or less than 2 percent, of CARES Act funds, were reported in time to appear in this year’s data, said Stephen Cornman, a statistician for the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the department’s Institute for Education Sciences.

That means next year’s figures will offer a far more comprehensive picture of the pandemic’s fiscal impact on schools—new and chaotic expenditures, and multiple rounds of federal emergency relief that will continue to ripple out in balance sheets for years to come.

A few other key statistics in the data offer a picture of how school finance works in the United States:

  • Four-fifths of all public education spending went to salaries and benefits. In some districts, that percentage is even higher.
  • Ten percent of school revenue went toward “capital outlay.” That includes construction, renovation, and maintenance, which are typically funded separately from operating expenses because they take multiple years to finance and complete.
  • $17,000 separated the states with the highest and lowest average per-pupil spending. Utah spent $8,200 per student, while New York spent $25,000 per student. Three other states—Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont—and D.C. also spent more than $20,000 per student. Seven other states—Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah—also spent less than $10,000 per student.
  • Education funding is highly volatile, depending on where you live. Delaware spent 12.8 percent less on K-12 schools in the 2019-20 school year than it did the previous year. New Mexico, by contrast, raised spending year over the previous year by 9.3 percent. Most other states saw an increase or decrease between zero and 2 percent.

Read the full report.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Management Webinar
Build a Digitally Responsive Educational Organization for Effective Digital-Age Learning
Chart a guided pathway to digital agility and build support for your organization’s mission and vision through dialogue and collaboration.
Content provided by Bluum
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Drive Instruction With Mastery-Based Assessment
Deliver the right data at the right time—in the right format—and empower better decisions.
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Profession Webinar
How Does Educator Well-Being Impact Social-Emotional Awareness in Schools?
Explore how adult well-being is key to promoting healthy social-emotional behaviors for students. Get strategies to reduce teacher stress.
Content provided by International Baccalaureate

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Opinion How You Can Avoid Missing Out on COVID Relief Money
We’re losing the race against the clock to spend ESSER funds, but there are solutions.
Erin Covington
3 min read
Illustration of cash dangling from line and hand trying to grasp it.
F. Sheehan for Education Week/Getty
Education Funding K-12 Infrastructure Is Broken. Here's Biden's Newest Plan to Help Fix It
School districts will, among other things, be able to apply for $500 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants for HVAC improvements.
2 min read
Image of an excavator in front of a school building.
iStock/Getty
Education Funding Less Funding, Less Representation: What a Historic Undercount of Latinos Means for Schools
Experts point to wide-ranging implications, including how much federal funding schools with large Latino populations will get.
3 min read
Classroom with Latino boy.
Prostock-Studio/Getty
Education Funding Biden Budget Seeks Big Funding Increases for High-Need Schools, Student Mental Health
The president's new budget proposal comes just weeks after he signed into law a spending plan that fell short of last year's ambitious plan.
5 min read
Photograph of a compass on top of money.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty