States Spending the Most on Education

May 31, 2013 by Mike Sauter

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.

Click here to see the states spending the most

Click here to see the states spending the least

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 most and least on education.

States That Spend the Most on Education

10. Pennsylvania
> Spending per pupil: $13,467
> Total education spending: $26.2 billion (6th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 88.6% (23rd highest)
> Median household income: $50,228 (23rd highest)

The Pennsylvania school system spent $13,467 per student in 2011, the 10th highest of all states. Of that, nearly $8,200 was spent on teaching costs such as teacher salaries, which was also the 10th highest of all states. Most of the remaining money was spent on support services such as administration and maintenance. Of the more than $27 billion that the Pennsylvania school system received in funding in fiscal 2011, 53.3% came from local sources, the eighth highest of all states. About 88.6% of the state’s adult population were high school graduates as of 2011, higher than the 85.9% across the country.

9. Rhode Island
> Spending per pupil: $13,815
> Total education spending: $2.2 billion (8th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 84.8% (15th lowest)
> Median household income: $53,636 (17th highest)

Out of the nearly $14,000 spent per student, the Rhode Island school system spent $8,398 on salaries and wages, the sixth most of any state. That year, 53% of school funding was from local sources, the second-highest proportion in the nation. But this high local spending has caused problems for the small state. In 2011, nearly 2,000 teachers in Providence were told they were being let go. However, most of these workers were not fired. Mayor Angel Taveras explained that the measure was designed to give the city flexibility as it worked to close a massive budget deficit.

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8. Maryland
> Spending per pupil: $13,871
> Total education spending: $13.0 billion (14th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 88.9% (21st highest)
> Median household income: $70,004 (the highest)

The Maryland schools system spent $13,871 per student in fiscal 2011, with $8,457 going directly to teaching costs — the eighth highest among all states. Localities accounted for a large amount of the funding. In fiscal 2011, 49.7% of funding came from local sources, much higher than the 43.3% nationwide. That year, $7,835 per pupil was collected from local sources, the eighth-highest amount in the nation. It helps that Maryland has one of the nation’s wealthiest tax bases. The median household income in 2011 was $70,004, higher than any other state. Maryland ranked third in K-12 achievement, with nearly 44% of public school students in the 11th and 12th grade receiving high Advanced Placement scores — the highest percentage in the nation.

7. Massachusetts
> Spending per pupil: $13,941
> Total education spending: $14.8 billion (11th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 89.2% (19th highest)
> Median household income: $62,859 (5th highest)

The Massachusetts school system was among the top 10 spenders, per student, both on teachers and support services and staff. Local taxes provided 54% of the state’s education funding, higher than all but six other states, while the federal government accounted for just 7.8% of all education funding, lower than all but four other states. Massachusetts was the best-performing state in all proficiency tests — it had the highest percentage of students in the nation considered proficient in both reading and math in the fourth and eighth grades. More than 39% of the state’s adult population had at least a bachelor’s degree, the highest percentage in the country.

6. Connecticut
> Spending per pupil: $15,600
> Total education spending: $9.2 billion (20th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 89.1% (20th highest)
> Median household income: $65,753 (4th highest)

While the national spending on education fell in 2011, it grew by 4.7% in the Connecticut school system, more than all but two other states. About 58.6% of funding for Connecticut education came from local sources, a higher percentage than any other state. Connecticut students performed better than students across the country on the NAEP’s standardized tests. As many as 44.7% of eighth-grade students were deemed proficient in reading, a higher percentage than any other state except Massachusetts. More than 36% of the population had at least a bachelor’s degree, a higher percentage than all but three other states.

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.

States That Spend the Least on Education

10. Colorado
> 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.

9. Texas
> 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.

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8. Nevada
> 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.

6. Tennessee
> 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.

5. Mississippi
> 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.

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4. Arizona
> 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.

3. Oklahoma
> 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.

2. Idaho
> 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.

1. Utah
> 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.

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