States That Spend the Most (and the Least) on Education

Plus, where the funding comes from and how it's spent in each state.
by | June 4, 2019 AT 12:08 PM
Teacher in front of white board with classroom of students.
(AP/Gillian Flaccus)

Schools in some states receive much larger sums of money -- up to three times more per pupil -- than in other states. Where the money comes from differs, too. And how schools opt to spend their funding varies significantly from state to state.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released its Annual Survey of School System Finances, depicting revenues and spending for all public elementary-secondary school systems in 2017.

Here's a breakdown of some highlights:

 

Spending Per Pupil

Schools in New York spent $23,091 per pupil, the highest tally of any state, followed by the District of Columbia, Connecticut, New Jersey and Vermont. That’s the same top five as the year before.

By comparison, spending totaled less than $8,000 per student in Idaho, Oklahoma and Utah.

Numerous factors contribute to these large discrepancies, as we’ve reported previously. Utah, for instance, has the highest proportion of children of any state, so it has less resources to spread among its districts. Along with demographics, costs of living, teacher pay and benefits, class sizes and tax structures all dictate education spending.

State Spending Per Pupil Revenue Per Pupil
Idaho 7,486 8,587
Utah 7,179 8,775
Arizona 8,003 9,188
Oklahoma 7,940 9,210
North Carolina 9,072 9,588
Mississippi 8,771 9,858
Tennessee 9,184 10,059
Florida 9,075 10,349
Nevada 9,320 10,544
Alabama 9,511 10,618
Arkansas 9,967 11,404
South Dakota 9,939 11,523
Texas 9,375 11,576
Kentucky 10,121 11,578
Colorado 9,809 11,727
Georgia 10,205 11,758
New Mexico 9,881 11,886
Montana 11,443 12,463
Missouri 10,589 12,492
Indiana 10,045 12,657
Kansas 10,961 12,712
West Virginia 11,554 12,726
Louisiana 11,199 12,810
Virginia 11,886 12,846
South Carolina 10,590 13,006
Oregon 11,264 13,268
Iowa 11,461 13,531
Wisconsin 11,968 13,653
Nebraska 12,579 13,898
Michigan 11,907 14,132
Washington 11,989 14,248
California 12,143 14,383
Ohio 12,645 14,818
Minnesota 12,647 15,193
Maine 13,690 15,534
Hawaii 14,322 15,666
North Dakota 13,760 16,172
Maryland 14,848 16,835
New Hampshire 15,683 17,475
Illinois 15,337 17,489
Delaware 15,302 18,157
Rhode Island 15,943 18,330
Alaska 17,838 18,868
Massachusetts 16,197 19,609
Pennsylvania 15,798 19,780
Wyoming 16,537 20,549
Vermont 18,290 20,594
New Jersey 18,920 21,603
Connecticut 19,322 22,324
New York 23,091 26,954
D.C. 21,974 31,382

SOURCE: 2017 Annual Survey of School System Finances, Table 11

These numbers won’t reflect more recent funding changes, such as the 19 percent pay raise Arizona teachers are set to eventually receive from legislation passed last year.

 

Funding Sources

Nationally, federal funding accounts for about 8 percent of education funding, while the rest is split nearly evenly between state and local sources.

In Vermont, state funds make up 90 percent of total revenues -- the most of any state.

On the low end, the state government accounts for only about a third of funding in Nebraska, New Hampshire and South Dakota.

Despite the large disparities, these differences don’t correlate with total per pupil funding, at least at the state level.

State Federal sources (%) State sources (%) Local sources (%)
New Mexico 14.4 66.4 19.2
Mississippi 14.1 50.8 35.1
Alaska 14.0 63.9 22.1
Arizona 13.7 40.1 46.2
South Dakota 12.8 34.1 53.2
Louisiana 12.4 41.4 46.1
Montana 12.0 46.9 41.1
West Virginia 11.6 53.9 34.5
Kentucky 11.5 54.7 33.8
Tennessee 11.5 45.9 42.5
North Carolina 11.2 61.5 27.3
Oklahoma 11.1 46.6 42.3
Florida 11.0 39.1 49.8
District of Columbia 11.0   89.0
Arkansas 10.9 75.8 13.3
Alabama 10.3 55.0 34.7
Texas 10.1 35.6 54.2
Idaho 9.8 65.0 25.1
North Dakota 9.2 58.0 32.8
Nevada 9.1 63.2 27.6
Georgia 9.1 45.2 45.7
Hawaii 8.9 89.1 2.0
California 8.9 57.3 33.9
South Carolina 8.8 47.5 43.7
Kansas 8.6 64.0 27.5
Missouri 8.4 42.2 49.5
Utah 8.2 51.8 40.0
Michigan 8.1 58.6 33.3
Nebraska 7.7 32.7 59.6
Indiana 7.4 62.6 30.1
Oregon 7.3 52.5 40.2
Rhode Island 7.2 40.5 52.2
Ohio 7.1 40.3 52.6
Iowa 6.9 54.1 39.0
Wisconsin 6.9 53.0 40.1
Virginia 6.8 39.7 53.4
Washington 6.8 62.8 30.4
Colorado 6.7 43.1 50.1
Maine 6.7 38.3 55.0
Illinois 6.5 41.0 52.4
Pennsylvania 6.4 38.7 54.9
Delaware 6.3 59.2 34.5
Vermont 6.1 90.3 3.6
Wyoming 6.1 59.1 34.7
Maryland 5.7 43.6 50.7
New Hampshire 5.4 32.1 62.5
New York 5.3 40.8 53.9
Minnesota 5.2 64.9 29.8
Connecticut 4.3 38.0 57.7
Massachusetts 4.3 38.7 57.0
New Jersey 4.1 41.0 54.9

SOURCE: 2017 Annual Survey of School System Finances, Table 5

 

How Funding Is Spent

Instruction, which includes teacher wages and benefits, accounts for the majority of elementary-secondary school spending. But just how much varies by state.

In New York, instruction makes up about 70 percent of total spending -- the highest share of any state. The next-highest states are Nebraska (65.3 percent), Minnesota (64.8 percent) and Utah (64 percent).

Alaska and Arizona, by comparison, spent just 54 percent on instruction -- the lowest share nationally.

States like New Hampshire and Vermont tend to spend somewhat more on administrative expenses than other states.

NOTE: Adult education, community services and other nonelementary-secondary program expenditures are excluded. Enrollments for state educational facilities and charter schools whose charters are held by nongovernmental entities are also not reflected in the totals. "Other" spending includes non-personnel related expenses, such as capital outlays and transfer payments to municipal entities.

 

Changes in Spending

A few states experienced sizable upswings in spending in 2017.

Per pupil spending increased 10 percent over the year in Kansas, the most of any state, followed by D.C., South Dakota and Illinois.

But in seven other states, spending failed to keep pace with inflation: Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma and Wyoming. Of those, only in Wyoming is school spending relatively high compared to elsewhere. Spending in Oklahoma actually declined nearly 2 percent, according to Census data.

Looking back further, spending in most states has climbed higher. From 2014 to 2017, the largest per pupil increases were in California (26.6 percent), Washington state (17.5 percent) and Illinois (17.3 percent).

State 2017 Spending 1-year change 3-year change
Alaska 17,838 1.9% -3.1%
Oklahoma 7,940 -1.9% 1.4%
West Virginia 11,554 2.3% 2.7%
Arkansas 9,967 1.2% 3.6%
Florida 9,075 1.7% 3.7%
Montana 11,443 0.8% 3.9%
Louisiana 11,199 1.5% 4.2%
Wyoming 16,537 0.6% 4.7%
Indiana 10,045 1.9% 5.2%
Alabama 9,511 2.9% 5.4%
New Jersey 18,920 2.8% 5.7%
Maryland 14,848 4.5% 6.0%
Mississippi 8,771 0.8% 6.1%
Arizona 8,003 5.1% 6.3%
Tennessee 9,184 4.2% 6.4%
North Carolina 9,072 3.2% 6.6%
Wisconsin 11,968 4.5% 7.0%
Michigan 11,907 2.0% 7.2%
Missouri 10,589 2.7% 7.2%
Nebraska 12,579 2.3% 7.3%
Massachusetts 16,197 3.9% 7.4%
Iowa 11,461 2.8% 7.4%
Vermont 18,290 2.3% 7.7%
Maine 13,690 3.1% 7.7%
Rhode Island 15,943 2.7% 8.0%
Virginia 11,886 4.0% 8.3%
Kentucky 10,121 2.6% 8.7%
South Carolina 10,590 3.3% 8.8%
Connecticut 19,322 1.9% 8.9%
Texas 9,375 4.0% 9.1%
Colorado 9,809 2.4% 9.2%
New Hampshire 15,683 2.2% 9.4%
New Mexico 9,881 1.9% 9.7%
Delaware 15,302 4.0% 9.8%
Kansas 10,961 10.1% 10.3%
Minnesota 12,647 2.1% 10.3%
Utah 7,179 3.2% 10.4%
Nevada 9,320 4.0% 10.8%
United States 12,201 3.7% 10.9%
Georgia 10,205 4.5% 10.9%
North Dakota 13,760 2.9% 11.3%
Ohio 12,645 4.5% 11.4%
South Dakota 9,939 8.3% 11.9%
New York 23,091 3.2% 12.1%
Idaho 7,486 4.6% 13.1%
Pennsylvania 15,798 2.3% 13.2%
Oregon 11,264 3.9% 13.3%
Hawaii 14,322 4.2% 15.5%
Illinois 15,337 8.2% 17.3%
Washington 11,989 3.9% 17.5%
District of Columbia 21,974 8.6% 18.9%
California 12,143 5.6% 26.6%

SOURCE: Census Annual Survey of School System Finances, 2017, 2016, 2014 per pupil current spending data