Special Report

States Spending the Most (and Least) on Education

States Spending the Least on Education

10. Florida
> Spending per pupil: $8,371
> Total education spending: $24.1 billion (7th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 86.5% (18th lowest)
> Median household income: $45,040 (11th lowest)

Florida spent $8,371per primary and secondary school student in fiscal year 2012, considerably less than the national average spending of $10,607. The per student expenditure in Florida was also 5.8% lower than the year before, a larger cut than in all but one other state. As is common in many states spending less on education, tax revenues in Florida were also quite low. The state collected $1,719 per capita in fiscal year 2012, only more than three other states. This was partly because Florida has no income tax. Unlike most states spending the least on education, however, Florida scored better than all but a handful of states on the 2013 NAEP.

9. Tennessee
> Spending per pupil: $8,294
> Total education spending: $9.0 billion (21st highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 85.1% (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $42,764 (7th lowest)

Tennessee allocated just $2,697 per pupil to to administrative, technical and logistical support, less than all but three other states. Low tax collections may limit how much Tennessee can spend on education. The state collected just $1,864 in taxes per resident in fiscal year 2012, among the lowest nationwide. One reason for this may be the state’s tax structure — Tennessee does not collect income taxes on earnings. Lower incomes in the state may also partly explain the low taxes. A typical household earned $42,764 in 2012, lower than all but a handful of states.

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8. Texas
> Spending per pupil: $8,260
> Total education spending: $49.8 billion (3rd highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 81.4% (the lowest)
> Median household income: $50,740 (24th highest)

Texas school systems allocated less than $1,000 per pupil to employee benefits, less than any other state. By contrast, spending on employee benefits across the nation averaged $2,363 per pupil. Despite the low education spending, Texas students fared relatively well on standardized tests last year, with K-12 achievement scores inline with the national average. Educational attainment rates, on the other hand, were exceptionally poor. Just over 81% of state-residents had attained at least a high school diploma in 2012, the lowest rate nationwide.

7. Nevada
> Spending per pupil: $8,222
> Total education spending: $4.1 billion (16th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 84.9% (10th lowest)
> Median household income: $49,760 (24th lowest)

Nevada spent $8,222 per student, with much of this going to support services, including logistical and administrative expenses. The state spent just $4,782 on instructional spending per pupil in fiscal year 2012, lower than all but a handful of states. Nevada’s elementary and secondary school systems received less than $10,000 per pupil in total federal, state, and local revenue in fiscal year 2012, much less than $12,331 nationwide average. Just 34% of fourth graders were proficient in math last year, much less than the 41% of U.S. fourth graders. While nearly 30% of U.S. residents had attained at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2012, just 22.4% of Nevada residents had, less than all but six other states.

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6. North Carolina
> Spending per pupil: $8,200
> Total education spending: $12.8 billion (14th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 85.2% (14th lowest)
> Median household income: $45,150 (13th lowest)

Of the $8,200 North Carolina spent per pupil in fiscal year 2012, $2,610 went to support services such as administration and maintenance, less than in all but two other states. Low funding from state and local sources meant North Carolina relied more heavily on federal resources — 14.3% of elementary and secondary school funds came from the federal government, more than all but a handful of states. More than 45% of fourth graders were proficient in math last year, versus 41.3% of nationwide fourth graders. However, while fourth graders across the country improved their math scores on standardized tests by 7.2 points between 2003 and 2013, North Carolina fourth graders improved their math scores by less than 3 points, one of the smallest improvements.