Special Report

States Spending the Most (and Least) on Education

5. Vermont
> Spending per pupil: $16,039
> Total education spending: $1.6 billion (3rd lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 91.7% (tied-5th highest)
> Median household income: $52,977 (20th highest)

Vermont schools spent $1,136 per pupil on school administration expenses in fiscal year 2012, more than any other state. The educational services industry was particularly large in the state. More than 13% of all Vermont employees worked in educational services in 2012, the most of any state in the nation. While funding in most states with large school budgets came primarily from local sources, 87.3% of funding for Vermont schools came from the state, the highest proportion nationwide. Like the majority of states spending the most on education, Vermont state tax collections were relatively high. The state collected more than $4,400 in taxes per resident in fiscal year 2012, fourth-highest in the nation.

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4. Connecticut
> Spending per pupil: $16,273
> Total education spending: $9.9 billion (20th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 89.9% (18th highest)
> Median household income: $67,276 (4th highest)

Like several other states that spend the most on education, Connecticut’s adults were typically well-educated. More than 37% of residents aged 25 and older had at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2012, among the highest rates nationwide. By one measure, teachers in Connecticut were exceptionally well-compensated, earning an average of $6,573 per pupil last year, behind only New York and New Jersey. Connecticut students were among the nation’s highest scorers on standardized tests. More than 45% of eighth graders, for example, were proficient in reading exams in 2013, more than all but two other states.

3. New Jersey
> Spending per pupil: $17,266
> Total education spending: $26.6 billion (5th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 88.3% (24th lowest)
> Median household income: $69,667 (2nd highest)

New Jersey spent more than any other state on pupil support — which includes social services and counselling — allocating $1,781 per pupil in fiscal year 2012. Like most states with large education spending, New Jersey residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earned nearly $70,000 in 2012, second only to Maryland. New Jersey also had exceptionally strong educational attainment rates. More than 36% of residents 25 years and older had at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2012, more than all but a handful states. Although New Jersey cut per pupil spending by more than 5% between 2010 and 2011 — the most of any state — it remained among the highest education spenders. All other states with high education spending increased education expenditure by relatively large amounts over that period. The state made up for education cuts the following year, when per pupil spending rose 8.1%, among the most of any state.

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2. Alaska
> Spending per pupil: $17,390
> Total education spending: $2.4 billion (9th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 92.0% (3rd highest)
> Median household income: $67,712 (3rd highest)

Alaska likely finds it easier to afford large school budgets because of high tax revenues. The state collected nearly $10,000 per capita in taxes in fiscal 2012, the most nationwide and considerably higher than the $2,557 national rate. However, much of this comes from taxes on oil and gas extraction, which accounted for more than two-thirds of all state tax collections last year. Additionally helping residents, the state’s median household income was the third highest in the country, at $67,712, in 2012. While NAEP test scores were relatively poor in the state, ninety-two percent of residents had at least a high school diploma in 2012, more than all but two other states. Although Alaska’s per pupil instructional spending ranked fifth in the country, no state spent as much per student on support services, at more than $7,000 per year.

1. New York
> Spending per pupil: $19,522
> Total education spending: $58.8 billion (2nd highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 85.3% (15th highest)
> Median household income: $56,448 (15th highest)

Teachers in New York were among the best-paid in the nation. The state spent $8,312 per pupil on teacher salaries and wages, and $4,233 on teachers’ benefits, both the most nationwide. In total, New York spent $13,582 per student on instruction, more than double the national average, and more than any other state. Taxes also tend to be quite high in New York. The state and local tax burden was nearly 13% of per capita income in 2011, the most in the nation according to the Tax Foundation. Despite having wealthy residents and the nation’s highest per student spending, just over 85% of adult residents had at least a high school diploma, less than the national rate of 86.4%.

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