In 2011, for the first time in decades, the amount the nation’s schools spent per student fell. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest release on education spending, the nation’s schools spent $10,560 per student in 2011, down from $10,600 per student in 2010. In most states, however, spending increased.
Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest release on education spending per student, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the states that spent the most and least on education. For the past seven years, New York spent more than any other state, at just over $19,000 per student. Utah spent less than a third of that.
The states that spent the most per student appear to be the ones that can best afford it. Median household income in nine of the 10 top-spending states is higher than the U.S. median.
Because schools are funded through property taxes, many of the states that spend the most on education received more money from relatively high property tax revenue. Nationally, 12% of school revenue came from the federal government, and 44% came from the state and local sources. In New Jersey, one of the states spending the most on education, more than 58% of funding came from local sources.
Generally, the states that spend the most on education get the best results. A majority of the top-spending states are in the top 15 in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading proficiency exams. Among the 10 states that spent the least per pupil, only Colorado was in the top 10 in any of these proficiency tests.
Spending a lot on students is by no means a guarantee of success, however. New York and Alaska, the top two spenders, had mediocre scores.
High school graduation rates also are likely to be higher in the states that spend more per student. Students in these states also are much more likely to complete college. More than 30% of adults in the majority of the top-spending states had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to the U.S rate of 28.5%. Of the 10 states that spent the least per student, eight had below-average percentages with bachelor’s degrees.
Wealth and spending on education has a significant impact on educational outcomes, according to Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities. “If you have more money, you can invest more in your schools,” he said in an interview with 24/7 Wall St. “If you invest more in your schools, you’re going to end up with a better-educated and ultimately higher-income population.”
Based on the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 states with the school systems that spent the most and the least per student in fiscal year 2011. From the census, we reviewed a variety of data related to education spending and revenue, including the proportion of state education revenue from federal, state or local sources, and the proportion of state spending that went to teaching costs or support services, all for fiscal 2011. We also used additional census data, including income, poverty and educational attainment data, all for calendar 2011. And we reviewed state proficiency scores in 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress math and reading exams for the fourth and eighth grades, provided by Education Week.
These are the states that spend the least on education, according to 24/7 Wall St.:
Spending per pupil: $8,724 Total education spending: $8.6 billion (22nd highest) Pct. with high school diploma: 90.2% (15th highest) Median household income: $55,387 (15th highest) At just under $1,400 per pupil in fiscal 2011, Colorado’s school system contributed less to employee benefits than all but two other states’ systems. Colorado barely spent more than $5,000 per student on teaching expenses, such as teacher salaries, one of the worst figures in the country. Still, schools got little help from outside their localities, receiving just $1,161 per student in federal funds and just $4,185 per student in state funds, both among the lowest amounts of any state in the nation. In late May, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the state legislature’s school funding formula, which critics argued failed to help poorer students. In 2012, a judge had declared the formula insufficient and said that not one school district in the state was appropriately funded. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Spending per pupil: $8,671 Total education spending: $52.5 billion (3rd highest) Pct. with high school diploma: 81.1% (3rd lowest) Median household income: $49,392 (25th highest) Of the $8,671 the Texas school system spent per pupil, just $1,041 went to employee benefits, the lowest such figure in the country. Schools were especially hampered by limited funding from the state. Just 38.6% of school funding came from the state government, versus 44.4% nationwide. The state government’s contribution to Texas schools totaled just over $4,000 per student — lower than all but six other states. In February, a judge ruled that the Texas formula for financing its schools was unfair and did not provide adequate funding to school districts. As a result, the formula was declared to be in violation of the Texas Constitution, although the judge’s final order is still pending. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Spending per pupil: $8,527 Total education spending: $4.3 billion (17th lowest) Pct. with high school diploma: 84.0% (9th lowest) Median household income: $48,927 (24th lowest) Nevada’s school system spent just $5,031 per student on teaching costs in 2011, the seventh lowest of all states. Meanwhile, the $3,206 per student spent on support services like administration and maintenance also was among the bottom third of all states. Just 32.3% of all Nevada education funding came from local sources, much lower than the 43.3% across the country. Only over a quarter of fourth graders were considered to be proficient in reading, the fifth-lowest percentage of all states. Just 22.5% of the state’s adult population had at least a bachelor’s degree, the seventh-lowest percentage of all states. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Spending per pupil: $8,312 Total education spending: $13.7 billion (13th highest) Pct. with high school diploma: 84.7% (14th lowest) Median household income: $43,916 (12th lowest) The North Carolina school system received just $9,951 in funding per student for the fiscal year 2011, well below the $12,411 per student nationwide. As a result of the limited funding, the school system spent just $8,312 per student in fiscal 2011, less than all but six states. Of this, $5,225 per student went to teaching costs, lower than 39 other states. The state also spent just $2,654 on support services like administration and maintenance, the third lowest of all states. North Carolina schools received just $3,366 per student from their localities, below the $5,375 per student across the country. Possibly limiting the ability of localities to raise money for their schools is North Carolina’s relatively low median household income. In 2011, it was just $43,916, well below the $50,502 median for the United States. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Spending per pupil: $8,242 Total education spending: $9.1 billion (21st highest) Pct. with high school diploma: 84.2% (12th lowest) Median household income: $41,693 (6th lowest) Just two states’ school systems received less funding per pupil than Tennessee’s, at $8,765 in fiscal 2011. Relative to the country as a whole, the Tennessee school system received less money from the federal government, its localities and especially the state, which provided a mere $4,010 per student — one of the lowest amounts of any state. With such little funding, the system spent a total of just $8,242 per student, including $2,672 per student in support services, fourth lowest in the nation. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Spending per pupil: $7,928 Total education spending: $4.3 billion (18th lowest) Pct. with high school diploma: 81.1% (3rd lowest) Median household income: $36,919 (the lowest) More than 22% of funding for the Mississippi school system came from the federal government, more than any other state, indicating a great need for money. Mississippi was fifth from the bottom in spending teacher salaries and classroom costs, at $4,563. It was sixth lowest in funding for support services, at just $2,840 per pupil. At both the fourth- and eighth-grade levels, Mississippi had the smallest percentage of students proficient in math of all states. In addition, the state had the smallest percentage of eighth graders proficient in reading among all states. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Spending per pupil: $7,666 Total education spending: $8.6 billion (23rd highest) Pct. with high school diploma: 85.7% (17th lowest) Median household income: $46,709 (21st lowest) The Arizona school system received just $8,806 per pupil in revenue from all sources. The state gave less financial support per pupil than almost any other state at just $3,227 per student in 2011, the second-lowest amount per pupil. This accounted for just 36.6% of all funding to Arizona schools, while schools nationwide received 44.4% of their funds from their state. As of fiscal 2011, the Arizona school system received 48.4% of its funding from local sources, higher than the 43.3% share for all schools nationwide. This, however, may change soon. In November, 2012, a ballot proposal that would have made a temporary sales tax hike permanent failed. The tax increase, passed in 2010, had been used largely to support the state’s schools during the peak of the recession. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Spending per pupil: $7,587 Total education spending: $5.6 billion (19th lowest) Pct. with high school diploma: 86.3% (19th lowest) Median household income: $43,225 (10th lowest) The Oklahoma school system spent just $4,311 per student on teaching costs, lower than all but three other states. Of this, $2,758 was spent on support services, less than all but five other states. The 3.9% drop in spending for Oklahoma schools between 2010 and 2011 was one of the largest decreases of any state. Of the money spent on the school system, 16.6% came from the federal government, more than all but six other states. The 36.4% that came from local sources was less than the 43.3% that came from local sources for all schools across the country. One accomplishment for Oklahoma’s education track record is that in 1998 it was the first state to adopt a mandatory preschool program. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Spending per pupil: $6,824 Total education spending: $2.0 billion (7th lowest) Pct. with high school diploma: 88.6% (23rd highest) Median household income: $43,341 (11th lowest) From 2006 to 2011, the Idaho school system spent less per student than any other state except for Utah. Yet, despite trailing the rest of the nation for years in per-student spending, expenditure fell by 4% between 2010 and 2011. The state itself, though, may not be at fault, funding more than 63% of education revenue in Idaho — the fifth-highest proportion percentage in the country. Arguing that the state’s school system can spend less and get the same quality education, Idaho Senator Jim Patrick told KMVT that “there’s a lot of difference in costs” between his state and the higher spenders.” Idaho had one of the lowest costs of living in the nation, while the highest-spending states, such as New York and Alaska, had especially high costs. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Spending per pupil: $6,212 Total education spending: $4.2 billion (16th lowest) Pct. with high school diploma: 90.3% (14th highest) Median household income: $55,869 (14th highest) Utah spent less per student on elementary and secondary education than any other state in the nation. Utah ranked dead last in spending per student on both teaching costs and support services, at $3,956 and $1,868, respectively. Despite the low spending, Utah’s test scores in reading and math in both the fourth and eighth grades are only slightly below average. More than 90% of Utah adults have graduated high school, among the top third of all states. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.