Special Report

Cities Spending the Most (and Least) per Student

5. Montauk Union Free School District, New York
> District spending per pupil:
$36,576
> State spending per pupil: $19,818
> Median household income: $68,528
> Enrollment: 323

In the Montauk Union Free School District, the median home value is $807,400, one of the highest of any district in the country. Likely as a result of the wealthy homes and the taxes collected on these properties, the district has the fifth largest educational budget in the country. With property taxes providing $16.0 million of the district’s $17.8 million budget, local sources account for nearly 90% of the district’s funding. The district spends $36,576 per student, $25,876 more than the average expenditure per student nationwide. In contrast, the state provides only 5.1% of the district’s budget, one of the lowest such shares in the nation.

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4. North Slope Borough School District, Alaska
> District spending per pupil:
$37,211
> State spending per pupil: $18,175
> Median household income: $80,761
> Enrollment: 1,892

Households in the North Slope Borough District are fairly wealthy, and much of this wealth goes into the district’s well-funded schools. A typical household in the district makes $80,761 annually, about $27,700 more than the typical American household. Likewise, the district spends an average of $37,211 per student, about $26,500 more than what is spent on the average American student. Local sources account for 54.3% of the district’s budget, higher than the roughly 45% of funding that comes from local sources in the average American district. Despite spending the fourth most per student of any district in the country, North Slope Borough had a graduation rate of just 58.3%.

3. Lake And Peninsula School District, Alaska
> District spending per pupil:
$42,160
> State spending per pupil: $18,175
> Median household income: $51,786
> Enrollment: 374

While the typical household in the Lake And Peninsula School District makes $51,786 — about $1,300 less than the typical American household — the district spends an average of $42,160 per student in instruction and support services a year, which is about $31,500 more than the average spending per student in the typical American school district. The large budget is supported by state and federal sources. Across the country, state and local sources each account for about 45% of district funding, with roughly 9% of funding coming from federal sources. However, in the Lake and Peninsula School District, just 9.6% is sourced locally. The state funds 64.4% of the budget and federal funds provide the remaining 25.9%. High federal funds generally come as grants for special needs support services. The district spends $20,930 on such services, and is one of the few districts to spend more on support services than on instruction.

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2. Yukon Flats School District, Alaska
> District spending per pupil:
$47,448
> State spending per pupil: $18,175
> Median household income: $27,014
> Enrollment: 261

Yukon Flats School District is one of relatively few districts spending more on support services than on instruction. The district spends $23,582 per pupil on support services alone, the second highest such expenditure in the nation. This could be due to added transportation costs in Yukon and throughout the state. The district’s instructional spending of $22,238 per pupil annually is also very high — the fourth highest compared with the nearly 10,000 other school districts reviewed. But while spending in the district trails only Pocantico Hills, the area is one of the poorest in the nation. A typical Yukon Flats household earns less than $30,000 annually, and 32.1% of people live in poverty, double the national poverty rate.

1. Pocantico Hills Central School District, New York
> District spending per pupil:
$61,029
> State spending per pupil: $19,818
> Median household income: $94,351
> Enrollment: 306

No school district spends anywhere close to Pocantico Hills Central School District on public education. At $61,029 per pupil, spending in the area is far higher than even the next highest spending district — it also has more than three times the average state per pupil expenditure and more than five times the national average expenditure. Households in the district are quite wealthy, with a median annual income of $94,351. In contrast, a typical American household earns about $53,000 a year. More than three-quarters of public school funding comes from local sources — partially from the high taxation revenue on area homes, which are some of the most valuable in the country. The median home value in Pocantico Hills is $593,500, versus the national median of $176,700. Another factor for the districts very high spending per pupil may be the small number of enrolled students. According to Michael Griffith, once student enrollment drops below 1,000 the costs of running a school will inflate per pupil spending. At last count, enrollment in Pocantico Hills was only 306.

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