An in-depth analysis by 24/7 Wall St. found that states that spend loads of money on education don’t necessarily yield higher-achieving students than those that spend less more efficiently. The impact of federal aid is inconsistent at best. Oftentimes, the results disappoint educators, politicians and parents.
The U.S. spent $10,498.66 on each public school student in 2009, according to the U.S. Census. The figure is a high as $18,126 in New York and as low as $6,356 in Utah. Surprisingly, Utah’s high school graduation rate is higher than New York’s.
- Read The States That Spend The Most on Each Student
- Read The States That Spend The Least on Each Student
24/7 Wall St. reviewed Census data on the amount states spend per student on education including teacher salaries and compared it with information on metrics such as graduation rates and standardized test reported by The National Center for Education Statistics, part of the US Department of Education. We then ranked the top 10 and bottom 10 spenders.
It is difficult to draw any conclusions from the analysis because the relationship between results and expenditures is so irregular. Front pages in American papers often carry news about heated battles over education spending. Teachers’ unions argue that their members must be well-compensated to produce strong results. Education experts often make similar arguments about the need to pour more money into school districts. This 24/7 Wall St. analysis underscores the flawed logic in that reasoning.
The States That Spend The Most on Each Student
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $21.2 Billion (7th most)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 39% (8th least)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $12,511 (10th most)
> High School Graduation Rate: 80.5% (14th highest)
In 2009, Pennsylvania spent just over $25 billion on education, which amounts to just over $12,500 per student. The state spends the tenth most per student on employee salaries, but spends the 21st most on benefits for employees. Governor Tom Corbett has proposed cutting the state’s K-12 budget by more than $500 million and freezing the salaries of public school employees for a year. Pennsylvania’s graduation rate of 80.5% is in the top fifth in the country, while the state scores the sixth-highest in reading and the 13th highest on math according to 2009 National Center For Education Statistics (NCES) test scores.
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $11.3 Billion (14th most)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 43% (15th most)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $13,449 (9th most)
> High School Graduation Rate: 80.1% (16th highest)
Only 5% of Maryland’s annual education budget of $13.1 billion comes from the federal government, the third-smallest percentage in the country. In 2009, the state spent $11.3 billion on its 843,000 students, which comes to over $13,400 per student. The state spends near this amount proportionally for most expenses, including salary for teachers. However, it allocates less funding toward student counseling, social services, and health care, and slightly more for staff support, which includes teacher training and audio/visual teaching equipment than other states. In 2003, the Maryland State Legislature passed the so-called “Thornton law” which mandated a budget increase of $1.3 billion each year. Those increases expired in 2008.
8. Rhode Island
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $13.9 Billion (9th least)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 47% (22nd least)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $13,707 (8th most)
> High School Graduation Rate: 75.3% (19th lowest)
Rhode Island spends $13,707 per pupil on education, the eighth most in the country. About $1,800 of this – more than any other state – goes to student support, which includes counseling, social work, and medical care. According to The Providence Journal, Rhode Island is the only state in the country without a defined formula for determining how much funding a school receives. State Governor Lincoln Chafee has proposed a system which would calculate state funding on poverty and enrollment size. Up to this point, state funding has been calculated based on property tax. This plan, if passed, is likely to reallocate money towards poor urban schools.
Click Image To See Larger Chart of Education Spending Per Student
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $13.9 Billion (11th most)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 39% (9th least)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $14,118 (7th most)
> High School Graduation Rate: 83.3% (8th highest)
Massachusetts is considered by many to have one of the best K-12 education systems in the country. In 2009, 8th grade students scored higher on standardized NCES reading and mathematics tests than in any other state. The state’s new $30.5 billion budget, approved on Friday, added $140 million for K-12 education , including $11 million for special education. However, a $200 million reduction in federal funding means there will be a net loss for the state’s schools.
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $8.2 Billion (20th most)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 38% (7th least)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $14,531 (6th most)
> High School Graduation Rate: 75.4% (23rd lowest)
Connecticut receives only 4% of its revenue for education from the federal government, the smallest percentage in the country (along with New Jersey), while receiving the most in the country from local taxes, at 58% of the total $9.5 billion education budget. According to the CT Mirror, Governor Dannell Malloy’s proposed budget includes cuts of more than $140 million for state colleges and universities. K-12 education, however, was left untouched. Connecticut’s 2009 NCES test scores were proportionately high (10th in the country for math and 4th in the country for reading). The state’s graduation rate of 75.4%, however, is the 23rd lowest in the country, just below the national average of 75.5%.
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $1.3 Billion (3rd least)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 57% (14th most)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $14,572 (5th most)
> High School Graduation Rate: 72.5% (17th lowest)
Wyoming, the least populous state in the country, has the smallest student body in the country, with just under 87,000 children enrolled in its public schools. Of the $14,572 spent in 2009 on education, Wyoming spent more per student than any other state on staff support, which includes things like curriculum development, staff training, and audio/visual equipment. Meanwhile, the state spent the least per student on salary for the board of education and superintendent’s office. For a state that spends the fifth most per pupil, Wyoming has subpar results in education, with the 20th best scores in math and a graduation rate of just over one in four, putting it in the bottom third among states.
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $1.3 Billion (4th least)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 89% (the most)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $15,175 (4th most)
> High School Graduation Rate: 89.6% (2nd highest)
Like Massachusetts, Vermont is one of the states considered to have the highest quality of public school education in the country. State 8th graders scored third best in both mathematics and reading in 2009, and the state’s graduation rate of 89.6% is the second best in the nation. Of the $1.5 billion in revenue intended for Vermont’s education system, 89% comes from state taxes – by far the most in the country and well more than the U.S. average of 47%. Just 5% comes from local taxes compared to a national average of 44%. The state spends more than $1,000 per pupil on the principal and other administrative staff, the most of any state. According to the Burlington Free Press, Governor Peter Shumlin’s proposed budget calls for a $23 million cut in education, all but $4 million of which will be accounted for by a temporary increase in federal aid.
Click Image To See Larger Chart of NCES Math Scores
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $2 Billion (8th least)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 63% (7th most)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $15,551 (3rd most)
> High School Graduation Rate: 72.6% (11th lowest)
Of the state’s $15,511 spent in 2009 per student, nearly a third of that money – $4,953 - went to fringe benefits like group health insurance, workers compensation, and retirement coverage. The nearly $5,000 spent per pupil is the most in the country, and easily more than double the national average of $2,263. Alaska has an inefficient system despite spending the third most in the country per student. Its 8th graders scored 30th and 39th in math and reading, respectively. The state also has a graduation rate of 72.6%, the 11th lowest in the country. According to the Fairbanks Daily News, the state is in the final year of a three-year trial of state-funded Pre-K education.
2. New Jersey
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $23.4 Billion (5th most)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 41% (10th least)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $16,271 (2nd most)
> High School Graduation Rate: 85.3% (6th highest)
Only 4% of New Jersey’s education budget comes from the federal government, with revenues evenly split between the state and local governments. The state spends the second most per pupil in education, more than $16,000. Recently, the state’s supreme court ruled $500 million in education cuts made last year were illegal because they deprived poor districts of the ability to provide a decent education to their students.
1. New York
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $50.6 Billion (2nd most)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 46% (24th least)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $18,126 (the most)
> High School Graduation Rate: 73.6% (12th lowest)
New York spends more than $18,100 per student on education each year, more than any other state in the country. To put this in perspective, the state’s budget includes approximately $12,500 per pupil spent on teacher salaries and benefits. This amount alone is more than the entire education budgets per student of all but a handful of states. Despite this massive amount of funding, the state is an abysmal 31st in the country in both math and reading scores, and the graduation rate of 76.3% is the 12th lowest in the country. According to MSNBC, in response to the release of these statistics, Gov.Andrew Cuomo stated that New York’s system would need to be evaluated, and that a powerful teacher evaluation system was needed. He said: “Only in government do you spend money regardless of results. In the real world, you buy something, you spend money, you expect something in return…”
The States That Spend The Least on Each Student:
10. North Carolina
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $12.5 Billion (13th most)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 53% (17th most)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $8,587 (10th least)
> High School Graduation Rate: 75.1% (16th lowest)
Although North Carolina’s educational system has many shortcomings, it performs fairly well considering the amount of money spent on it. For the last year on record, $8,587 was spent per student. This is the tenth smallest amount among all states. One would be hard pressed to prove that students in North Carolina do the tenth worst, however. Among eight graders in 2009, students had the 25th highest math scores in the country. Scores are somewhat lower for reading, the 14th lowest in country. The budget being proposed by the House may cut funds even further in the state. If adopted, $628.8 million would be cut from the budget, causing public school spending to drop 7% from 2008 levels, according to numbers from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $40 Billion (3rd most)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 41% (11th least)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $8,539 (9th least)
> High School Graduation Rate: 75.4% (22nd lowest)
Texas spends just under $40 billion on education per year, the third largest amount in the country. Due to the state’s large population, however, it only spends a little over $8,500 per pupil, the ninth lowest amount. This amount will soon be even less. This May, House and Senate negotiators approved a state budget which will cut K-12 education funding in Texas by $4 billion. These cuts are expected to cause thousands of teacher layoffs. According to Bloomberg, many schools have already begun firing teachers.
Click Image To See Larger Chart of Graduation Rates By State
8. South Dakota
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $1.1 Billion (2nd least)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 33% (the least)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $8,506 (8th least)
> High School Graduation Rate: 81.7% (12th highest)
Sixteen percent of funding for South Dakota’s public schools comes from federal sources, the most among all states. South Dakota schools also have the smallest percentage of funding deriving from state sources — 33%. Despite this, South Dakota performs exceptionally well in a number of metrics used to evaluate public education. In 2009, students in South Dakota received the eighth highest test scores for both math and reading. South Dakota also has the 12th highest graduation rate in the country. State education funding was recently cut by 6.6%.
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $3.6 Billion (17th least)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 51% (20th most)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $8,422 (7th least)
> High School Graduation Rate: 56.3% (lowest)
The $8,422 that Nevada spends per pupil is producing the results that one might expect such small amounts of money to produce. The state has the eighth lowest math scores in the country and the fourth lowest reading scores. Perhaps most shocking is Nevada’s graduation rate of 56.3%, by far the lowest in the country. For comparison, the national average is 75.5%. A bill was recently passed to avoid further cuts in education spending in the state. It was vetoed by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. As a result, $1.1 billion will be cut.
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $4 Billion (18th least)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 53% (18th most)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $8,074 (6th least)
> High School Graduation Rate: 62% (2nd lowest)
Mississippi is another state which appears to suffer greatly from its lack of education funding. Students earned the lowest test grades in the country in 2009 for both math and reading. Mississippi also has the second lowest graduation rate in the country, with only 62% of 2005 enrollment graduating in 2009. Education cuts are still being made across the state. The recent budget for Mississippi includes $14 million in cuts from K-12 education in Jackson, MS, alone.
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $7.8 Billion (21st most)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 47% (25th most)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $7,897 (5th least)
> High School Graduation Rate: 77.4% (24th highest)
Although Tennessee spends very little on education, its performance it performs fairly well. Students in Tennessee have the ninth lowest math scores, yet they only have the 18th lowest reading scores. The state also has an average graduation rate — 77.4%. The state will soon have to deal with larger classes and cut programs, however, according to The Tennessean. Federal stimulus funding which boost education spending has expired, causing school districts across the state to cut costs.
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $5.3 Billion (22nd least)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 50% (22nd most)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $7,884 (4th least)
> High School Graduation Rate: 77.3% (25th most)
Oklahoma spends the fourth least amount per pupil. The state also pays the third least amount in employee benefits and the second least amount in teachers’ salaries to the number of students in the state. About 4% was recently cut from K-12 education budgets to close the state’s $500 million budget gap. As an additional burden, insurance rates were recently raised on schools across the state, due largely to damage this past year caused by weather events, such as tornadoes.
Click Image To See Larger Chart of Graduation Rates Compared To Expenditure Per Student
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $7.75 Billion (22nd most)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 44% (34th most)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $7,813 (3rd least)
> High School Graduation Rate: 72.5% (10th lowest)
Arizona spends among the lowest amount on education per student in the country. The state also has among the lowest test scores in the country. Despite this, $200 million, or $175 per student, was recently cut from public education in the state. School districts in the state are being forced to cut costs as government funding dries up. The school district in Scottsdale, for example, is firing workers, changing employees’ health insurance plans, and giving teachers additional duties, according to The Arizona Republic.
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $1.9 Billion (7th most)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 67% (5th most)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $7,091 (2nd least)
> High School Graduation Rate: 80.6% (13th highest)
Despite the small amount Idaho spends on education per pupil, its schools perform well. Its graduation rate is the 13th highest in the nation, 7% higher than New York, the state that spends the most. Idaho also has the 16th highest math scores. In the most recent budget, Idaho’s educational funding is being cut for the third straight year. Additionally, money is being shifted away from teachers’ salaries to pay for technology upgrades, according to the Times-News newspaper.
> Total Elementary-Secondary Spending: $3.5 Billion (16th least)
> % Revenue From State Sources: 53% (19th most)
> Amount Spent Per Pupil: $6,356 (the least)
> High School Graduation Rate: 79.4% (19th highest)
Utah spends the lowest amount on each student of any state in the nation, and is the only state to spend less than $7,000 per student, compared to a national average of $10,498. The amount spent, however, is an increase of 10.3% from the year before. The public education budget was also increased by 2% this year, according to Utah’s Daily Herald. Although math and reading scores in the state are around average, they are both better than scores in New York, a state that spends almost three times as much per pupil as Utah does. Furthermore, 21% of public schools in Utah failed to meet the goals set forth by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. In New York, this number is 38%.
Michael B. Sauter, Charles B. Stockdale, Douglas A. McIntyre