States That Spend the Least on Education
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
7. North Carolina
> 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.
> 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.