NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Spending Per Student Drops

May 29, 2013

In 2011, public education spending dropped for the first time in more than three decades. Education officials want to see the system overhauled and fixed before more money is spent, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • Spending for elementary and high schools across the 50 states and Washington, D.C., averaged $10,560 per pupil in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011.
  • That was down 0.4 percent from 2010, the first drop since the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting the data in 1977.

When you adjust the data for inflation, this isn't the first drop on record, but in inflation-adjusted terms, spending per pupil was down 4 percent in 2011 from the peak.

  • The nation's Pre K-12 schools spent $595.1 billion on about 48 million students in 2011, with $522.1 billion going toward daily operating expenses. That was a decline of 1.1 percent from 2010, the second year in a row that total spending dropped.
  • The fiscal 2011 level was more than double the $5,001 in 1992, but schools have been lacking money in recent years because of increasing costs for teacher pensions and health care.
  • Teacher salaries gobbled up $308 billion, the largest share of the total, with another $109 billion going toward employee benefits including pensions.
  • Many districts have had to lay off teachers, minimize programs, and close schools to balance budgets.

Education officials say decreased spending will make it more difficult to prepare U.S. students for an increasingly competitive global marketplace, but most critics argue that public education costs are skyrocketing while academic achievement has not followed suit.

Federal education officials want the system fixed before they invest more money into the programs, but a policy or plan to fix education has yet to be seen.

Source: Stephanie Banchero, "Public Spending Per Student Drops," Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2013.


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