Public School Spending Per Student Up 5%, Biggest Increase in 11 Years

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A U.S. Census Bureau report shows that elementary and secondary schools received $751.7 billion total from all revenue sources and that states contributed the greatest share of funds.

Public school spending per student increased by 5% to $13,187 during the 2019 fiscal year, compared to $13,187 per student in fiscal 2018, according to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau

The report finds that total spending per student was the largest amount in 11 years and was due in part to an overall increase in school revenue. According to the Census Bureau, public elementary and secondary schools received $751.7 billion total from all revenue sources in 2019, up 4.5% from $719 billion in 2018.

The places that spent the most per pupil in fiscal year 2019 were New York City ($25,139), Washington, D.C. ($22,406), Connecticut ($21,310), New Jersey ($20,512) and Vermont ($20,315), census data shows. 

In addition, school districts in New York City ($28,004), Boston ($25,653), Washington, D.C. ($22,406), San Francisco ($17,228) and Atlanta ($17,112) were the top five in spending per pupil in 2019 among the 100 largest public school systems in the country.

According to the survey, state governments contributed the greatest share— 46.7% or $350.9 billion—of public school funding. Systems in Alaska (15.3%), Mississippi (14.0%), South Dakota (13.7%), New Mexico (13.0%) and Arizona (12.9%) received the highest percentage of their revenues from the federal government, while New Jersey (4.1%), Connecticut (4.3%), Massachusetts (4.3%), New York (4.8%) and New Hampshire (5.0%) received the lowest percentage.

Finally, total public school district debt increased by 3.7% to $495.1 billion in fiscal year 2019 from $477.4 billion the previous year.

The study comes as states consider efforts aimed at helping students make up learning losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. As well, states are preparing to receive federal relief funding, some of which will be used to bolster education spending. 

The data for this report comes from the 2019 Annual Survey of School System Finances. Education finance data include revenues, expenditures, debt and assets (cash and security holdings).

To see more on the data compiled by the Census Bureau survey click here

Brent Woodie is an associate editor at Route Fifty.

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