States Spending the Most on Education

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5. Wyoming
> Spending per pupil: $15,849
> Total education spending: $1.6 billion (5th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 92.0% (2nd highest)
> Median household income: $56,322 (13th highest)

Wyoming’s school system spent just under $6,000 per student on maintenance and support staff, more than any other state except for Alaska and New Jersey. Ninety-two percent of the adult population had a high school diploma as of 2011, more than any other state except for Montana. However, educational attainment dropped off significantly after high school. Just 24.7% of the adult population had a bachelor’s degree or higher, among the bottom third of all states. Last July, Harvard researcher Paul Peterson told the Casper Star-Tribune that spending per student has grown more in Wyoming than in nearly any other state, yet test results have remained stagnant. “It’s not getting much for all that money,” he said.

4. Vermont
> Spending per pupil: $15,925
> Total education spending: $1.5 billion (3rd lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 91.8% (tied for 4th highest)
> Median household income: $52,776 (19th highest)

Only Connecticut and New York spent more per student on teaching costs, which includes teacher salaries and regular classroom costs, than Vermont did in fiscal 2011. The state’s school system spent $6,436 per student on teacher salaries and wages, third highest in the nation and more than $2,000 above the national average per pupil. State sources accounted for 88% of all the funding schools received in fiscal 2011 — the highest percentage in the nation. In 2011, more than 49% of fourth grade students were considered proficient in math, among the top five states in the nation. Among eighth grade students, 46.0% and 44.4% were proficient in math and reading, respectively, also among the best results for any state.

3. New Jersey
> Spending per pupil: $15,968
> Total education spending: $25.0 billion (7th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 88.1% (25th lowest)
> Median household income: $67,458 (3rd highest)

New Jersey’s school system spent more than $1,600 per student on pupil support services, such as counseling and social work, in fiscal 2011 — higher than any other state. Meanwhile, more than 58% of all revenue for elementary and secondary schools came from local sources, more than any other state except for Connecticut. New Jersey residents as a whole tend to be better educated than the U.S. population. More than 35% of adult residents had at least a bachelor’s degree, the sixth-highest percentage of all states. New Jersey had the second-highest percentage of students proficient in reading in both the fourth and eighth grades, with only Massachusetts students scoring higher.

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2. Alaska
> Spending per pupil: $16,674
> Total education spending: $2.4 billion (10th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 91.4% (tied for 4th highest)
> Median household income: $67,825 (2nd highest)

The Alaska school system spent more than $6,500 per student on employee benefits, which include employee retirement and Social Security contributions along with insurance plans, considerably more than any other state in the country. Alaska received nearly $3,200 per student in funding from the federal government in fiscal 2011, more than any other state in the nation. In all, 17.8% of all education revenue came from the federal government, well above the 12.1% portion for schools nationwide. Meanwhile, a relatively low 22.1% came from local sources. Despite years of having some of the top-spending schools in the nation, Alaska students scored poorly on fourth grade math and reading proficiency exams.

1. New York
> Spending per pupil: $19,076
> Total education spending: $59.2 billion (2nd highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 85.0% (16th lowest)
> Median household income: $55,246 (16th highest)

The New York school system spent far more per pupil than any state in the country. The state spent $13,287 per pupil on teaching in fiscal 2011 — more than double the national average — and was the only state to spend more than $10,000 a student on student instruction. A good portion of that money, $8,196 per student, went to pay for teachers’ wages and salaries. This was the highest of any states’ school systems. Total education expenditure continues to rise in the state, which has been the number one spender on education per pupil since 2006. The amount spent per student has risen by at least 2.5% in each of the past five years. This relatively large spending on students, however, has not necessarily paid off in terms of high test scores. The percentage of students proficient in math in both fourth grade and eighth grade was worse than the United States as a whole.