JUNE 14, 2017 — Schools across the nation spent over 60 percent of day-to-day expenditures on classroom instruction in fiscal year 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Public Education Finances: 2015 report released today.
The report provides figures on revenues, expenditures, debt and assets (cash and security holdings) for the nation’s public elementary and secondary school systems. The report, which is released annually, includes detailed statistics on spending — such as instruction, student transportation, salaries and employee benefits — at the national, state and school district levels.
“School systems in all states and the District of Columbia spent $344.3 billion on classroom instruction,” said Stephen Wheeler, a project manager with the Census Bureau’s Educational Finance Branch. “This includes spending on salaries for teachers, instructional aides and substitute teachers.”
Classroom instruction is defined as activities dealing with the interaction between teachers and students in the classroom or other learning situations.
New York and the District of Columbia led the nation in total per student spending on instructional staff salaries at $8,758 and $9,112, respectively.
Per Student Spending
Nationally, per student spending was $11,392 in fiscal year 2015, a 3.5 percent increase from fiscal year 2014. This amount represents the largest increase in per student spending since 2008 when there was a 6.1 percent increase from the year prior. Total current expenditures per student include instruction, support services and noninstructional functions, including direct expenditure for salaries, employee benefits, student transportation, building maintenance and other services and supplies.
Per student spending increased for every state, with Alaska and California having the highest percentage increase (9.5 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively), except for Arizona (decreased 0.5 percent).
Overall, New York and Alaska spent more per student with a total of $21,206 and $20,172, respectively. States with the lowest per student expenditures were Idaho with $6,923 and Utah with $6,575.
Of the 100 largest school systems by enrollment, Maryland had four of the 10 public school districts with the highest spending per student. This marks the eighth year in a row Maryland has had four school districts in the top 10 in this category. Nationally, the top five school districts per student spending were New York City School District at $21,980; Boston City Schools at $21,552; Anchorage School District in Alaska at $17,046; Baltimore City Schools in Maryland at $15,818; and Howard County Schools in Maryland at $15,714.
Public Education Expenditure
Total expenditure by public school systems was $639.5 billion in fiscal year 2015, compared to $613.7 billion in fiscal year 2014. Of the total expenditures for elementary and secondary education, current spending made up $567.7 billion, or 88.8 percent, and capital outlay was $52.1 billion, or 8.2 percent.
Expenditures for instruction amounted to $344.3 billion, or 60.6 percent of total current spending. Instructional salaries and wages totaled $216.9 billion, while instructional employee benefits totaled $87.1 billion.
Support services expenditures included general and school administration expenditures at $40.9 billion, operation and maintenance of plant expenditures at $51.6 billion and student transportation expenditures at $24.2 billion.
Eight of the nine states in the Northeast ranked among the top 15 in spending per student, except for Maine, which was 16th. Out of the 20 states with the lowest per student spending, 17 were in the South or West. The remaining states were Kansas, Indiana and South Dakota, which are in the Midwest.
Total school district debt increased by 3.6 percent from the prior year, from $418.0 billion in fiscal year 2014 to $433.1 billion in fiscal year 2015.
Public Education Revenue
State governments contribute the greatest share of public school system funding at $302.6 billion, or 47.1 percent of total revenue.
Revenue raised from local sources, which includes revenues from county and municipal governments, amounted to $286.7 billion, or 44.6 percent of public elementary and secondary funding, while the federal government contributed $53.3 billion, or 8.3 percent of public elementary and secondary funding.
The $286.7 billion that schools received from local sources included $196.6 billion from property and other taxes.
Public school systems receiving the highest percentage of revenues from the federal government were Louisiana and Mississippi with 14.7 percent, South Dakota with 14.6 percent, Arizona with 13.4 percent and New Mexico with 13.2 percent.
Public school systems receiving the lowest percentage of revenues from the federal government were Connecticut and New Jersey with 4.1 percent, New York with 4.5 percent and Massachusetts with 4.6 percent.
These statistics provide researchers, policymakers and the public with a picture of the revenue and spending by the nation’s public school systems. These data are used in a variety of important economic measures. The U.S. Department of Education uses the data in calculating Title I grants. The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the data in their gross domestic product measure.
The data used in the tabulations came from a census of all 15,084 public school systems in the United States. As such, they are not subject to sampling error. Although quality assurance methods were applied to all phases of data collection and processing, the data are subject to nonsampling error, including errors of response and miscoding. For more information, visit the Census Bureau’s website at <www.census.gov/programs-surveys/school-finances.html>.