States Spending the Most (and Least) on Education

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5. Mississippi
> Spending per pupil: $8,164
> Total education spending: $4.5 billion (18th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 82.3% (3rd lowest)
> Median household income: $37,095 (the lowest)

Nearly 18% of Mississippi elementary and secondary school funding came from the federal government, more than every state except for Louisiana. High reliance on federal funds may indicate a lack of resources within the state. A typical Mississippi household made just $37,095 in 2012, the least nationwide. With nearly one quarter of state residents living in poverty, more than anywhere else in the U.S., residents were also more likely to be dependent on government aid programs such as SNAP benefits. More than 19% of households in the state used food stamps in the 12 months prior to 2012, second-most in the nation. Education Week gave Mississippi an “F” in K-12 student achievement last year, making it the only state to receive a failing grade. Just 26.1% of fourth graders, and 21.3% of eighth graders, in the state were proficient in math, both among the worst nationwide.

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4. Arizona
> Spending per pupil: $7,558
> Total education spending: $7.9 billion (25th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 85.7% (16th lowest)
> Median household income: $47,826 (21st lowest)

Only three states spent less on teacher salaries and benefits than Arizona. Benefits made up a particularly small portion of the budget. The state allocated less than $700 per student in teacher benefits in fiscal year 2012, less than all but one other state and half the national average expenditure of $1,573. While Arizona fourth graders had among the nation’s largest improvements in the math sections of the NAEP between 2003 and 2013, less than 40% were considered proficient last year, still shy of the national rate.

3. Oklahoma
> Spending per pupil: $7,466
> Total education spending: $5.8 billion (21st lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 86.7% (19th lowest)
> Median household income: $44,312 (10th lowest)

Like most states spending the least on education, Oklahoma’s localities did not provide very much funding for schools — just $1,843 per pupil in 2012, less than all but four other states. Instead, 13.3% of school funding came from the federal government, among the higher percentages in the nation. Oklahoma cut education spending per student in both 2011 and 2012. This included a nearly cut 4% between 2010 and 2011, one of the largest drops in the U.S. during that time. Oklahoma students fared among the worst on standardized tests. Just 3.7% of eighth grade students were considered advanced in math last year, less than half the national rate. And only one-quarter were considered proficient, compared to more than one third of students nationwide.

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2. Idaho
> Spending per pupil: $6,658
> Total education spending: $2.0 billion (7th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 89.8% (20th highest)
> Median household income: $45,489 (15th lowest)

Idaho received less than $7,500 in education revenues per student in 2012. No state received less money from federal, state and local sources combined. Local funding was especially miniscule. While elementary and secondary schools across the nation received $5,487 per student on average, local sources in Idaho provided just $301 per student — far and away the lowest in the nation. As a result, Idaho was able to spend just $6,658 per pupil in fiscal 2012, well below the U.S. average of $10,608 per student. Just over $4,000 was spent directly on teaching, less than every state except for Utah.

1. Utah
> Spending per pupil: $6,206
> Total education spending: $4.2 billion (17th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 91.0% (10th highest)
> Median household income: $57,049 (13th highest)

Utah spent just $6,206 per pupil in fiscal 2012, less than any other state. Teacher compensation was also the lowest in the nation, by one measure, at just $2,397 per student. By contrast, expenditure on teachers’ salaries across the nation averaged well over $4,000 per pupil. Educational attainment rates, however, were exceptionally good. More than 90% of residents aged 25 and older had at least a high school diploma as of 2012, and 30.7% had completed at least a bachelor’s degree, both among the best rates nationwide. For current students, on the other hand, the results were not especially impressive. Utah earned a “D+” for K-12 achievement, worse than the “C-” grade awarded to the U.S. overall.

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