1. Alabama: Mountain Brook Schools
> Location: Jefferson County
> Annual per student spending: $13,303
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 85.1%
Alabama’s Mountain Brook School District, located just outside of Birmingham, educates over 4,000 students in grades K-12 in six different schools. While there is no direct link between school spending and outcomes, schools with greater financial resources can often offer students with a broader range of opportunities. Per pupil spending in the Mountain Brook district is over $13,000 per year, the most of any district in Alabama.
Children in the district are also less likely than most to be disadvantaged outside of the classroom. For example, the stresses associated with living in poverty can hurt academic performance, and in Mountain Brook, just 6.5% of school-age children live below the poverty line, well below the 17.0% U.S. child poverty rate.
2. Alaska: Juneau School District
> Location: Juneau City and Borough
> Annual per student spending: $16,494
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 39.5%
A child’s academic performance tends to increase with parental educational attainment — and in the Juneau School District, parents are more likely to have a college education than parents nationwide. An estimated 39.5% of adults 25 and over in the district have a bachelor’s degree, well above the 31.5% national rate.
Students in the Juneau district are also more likely to be enrolled in Advanced Placement classes than those in any other district in the state. Of the nearly 5,000 students in the district, 7.9% are enrolled in an AP class.
3. Arizona: Catalina Foothills School District 16
> Location: Pima County
> Annual per student spending: $7,070
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 70.1%
The Catalina Foothills School District 16, located in the northern part of the Tucson metropolitan area, ranks as the best district in Arizona. The district has one of the most affluent populations in the country, as well as one of the most highly educated — approximately 70% of adults have a bachelor’s degree. Students who grow up in an affluent household with college-educated parents are more likely to achieve academic success.
The school district’s per student spending per year is lower than many of the school districts on this list, at just over $7,000 per pupil.
4. Arkansas: Valley View Schools
> Location: Craighead County
> Annual per student spending: $8,692
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 45.3%
Valley View School District, located in northeastern Arkansas, enrolls about 3,000 students across four schools. The district’s ranking on this list is due in large part to positive educational outcomes, as over 90% of high school freshman graduate in four years.
The greater likelihood of academic success in the district is partially due to factors outside the classroom. For example, children raised by college-educated parents are more likely than most to do well in school. Across Valley View District, 45.3% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, well above the comparable 31.5% share of adults nationwide.
5. California: Palo Alto Unified School District
> Location: Santa Clara County
> Annual per student spending: $19,648
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 83.8%
Public school spending on a per student basis is nearly $20,000 per year in the Palo Alto School District. The high spending is due in part to high revenue from property taxes as Palo Alto is one of the wealthiest parts of the country with relatively expensive real estate.
While high per student spending does not necessarily translate to positive outcomes, the district boasts a near perfect graduation rate. Additionally, over 95% of students who take one or more AP exams pass at least one.