Special Report

Cities Spending the Most (and Least) per Student

10. Tuckahoe Common School District, New York
> District spending per pupil:
$33,734
> State spending per pupil: $19,818
> Median household income: $98,326
> Enrollment: 361

Tuckahoe Common School District spends $33,734 per pupil on average each year, about $13,000 more than the average across the state, and the 10th highest out of nearly 10,000 U.S. school districts. The school district is one of four top spenders based in New York. Also, like most districts with the highest expenditures, especially those in New York, area households are relatively wealthy. The typical household earns $98,326 annually, well above the national median household income of $53,046. While the precise link between high education spending and better outcomes is a contested issue, there may be a payoff in Tuckahoe Common. The district’s graduation rate of 89% was considerably better than the statewide rate of 76%. Also, more than 41% of adults in the Tuckahoe area have at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the highest attainment rates nationwide.

ALSO READ: The Richest School Districts

9. Asbury Park City School District, New Jersey
> District spending per pupil:
$33,881
> State spending per pupil: $17,572
> Median household income: $30,983
> Enrollment: 1,998

As in every other top-spending school district, Asbury Park City’s education expenditure of $33,881 per pupil is more than three times the nationwide average expenditure of $10,700 per student. Enrollment tends to be low in the school districts that spend the most, and while Asbury’s district enrollment of 1,998 is high compared to others on this list, the number of students has been declining. According to the Asbury Park Press, enrollment drops are the primary drivers of increased per pupil spending. Unlike most other top-spending school districts, Asbury Park’s median annual household income of $30,983 is one of the lowest in the nation, and despite the high spending, education outcomes are relatively poor. The area’s high school graduation rate of 67.8% was among the lowest in the nation. In addition, just 17.9% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, and 78.2% have at least a high school diploma, each some of the lower figures in the country.

8. Island Park Union Free School District, New York
> District spending per pupil:
$35,416
> State spending per pupil: $19,818
> Median household income: $77,056
> Enrollment: 704

Just north of Long Beach on Long Island, the Island Park Free School District is one of the best-funded districts in the country. Each student’s education is worth $35,416 on average, more than triple the average for the nation. While the economic circumstances of most residents are relatively good, the educational outcomes are not particularly strong in the district. According to the most recent school district accountability report, fewer than half of third through eighth grade students met national English standards.

ALSO READ: America’s Most and Least Educated States

7. Yupiit School District, Alaska
> District spending per pupil:
$36,058
> State spending per pupil: $18,175
> Median household income: $36,979
> Enrollment: 448

The best-funded school districts are often quite wealthy. However, in some cases, the opposite is true. While the Yupiit School District has one of the nation’s highest education expenditures, it also has a poverty rate of 36.2%, and more than 55% of households rely on food stamps — each rate far higher than the respective national average rate. With low incomes and property values, funding contributions from local sources are relatively low. Federal sources, on the other hand, account for 47.4% of total district funding — one of the highest such figures in the country. Most federal government education resources are dedicated to special education services and other needs-based funding.

6. Aleutians East Borough School District, Alaska
> District spending per pupil:
$36,380
> State spending per pupil: $18,175
> Median household income: $61,250
> Enrollment: 250

Across the country, school districts are funded by equal parts from local and state sources — about 45% each — and roughly 9% federal. The Aleutians East Borough School District, the sixth highest funded school district in the country, skews this trend. The district sources just 15% of its budget locally, gets 67.5% of its budget from state government, and 17.5% from federal sources. Despite the different funding scheme, the district manages to spend an average of $36,380 on each of its 250 students, $25,680 more than is spent on the average American student. Federal funds for education usually come as grants for special needs support services. The Aleutians school district spends $16,424 per student on such support services, the fifth most in the nation.

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