Schools average $9,666 per student

Public schools spent an average of $9,666 per student in 2007, an increase of 5.8 percent from the previous year, the Census reports. The federal share was 8.3 percent.

New York schools spend the most per student ($15,981) while Utah sepnds the least ($5,683). “Also in the top three were New Jersey at $15,691 per pupil and Washington, D.C. at $14,324,” reports the New York Times.

The stimulus funds will stimulate the appetite for more federal education spending, predicted Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

”Once you start giving money to people, you create the appetite for more. I think the 2009 numbers will be a lot different than the 2007 ones,” Whitehurst said.

In Louisiana, 17.6 percent of education funding comes from Washington; in New Jersey, it’s only 4 percent.

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  1. Mike Skiles says:

    I would like to see inflation adjusted numbers back to WWII.

  2. I’m not sure the representation of these numbers is fair.

    As CATO reports, “…Washington DC has a grand total audited enrollment of 48,353 students. From that we have to subtract 997 students in adult education programs and 1,498 students in preschool programs who are not covered by my k-12 budget calculations. That leaves us with a k-12 audited enrollment of 45,858. Dividing that in to the District of Columbia’s $1.3 billion k-12 education budget yields a per pupil spending figure of about $28,000.”

    I wonder if GM, AIG, Merrill Lynch, etc. are using the same accounting practices.

    A bigger question; does anyone repeating these numbers (in print or speech) have any responsibility to check their veracity or is it OK to just use them?

  3. Ragnarok says:

    From the NYT article:

    “In California, where a failing state budget is expected to force massive teacher layoffs, spending was $9,152 per pupil — just below the national average.”

    But California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says this:

    “The Governor’s budget provides total K–12 per–pupil funding (PPF) of $11,626 for 2008?09.”

    You can see the report here:

    Will the NYT/AP revise the article? I rather doubt it. And where are those “massive” teacher layoffs? I don’t see them.

  4. Hmmm, how about this:

    * 25 kids = $241,650

    Head teacher: $80,000
    Assistant teacher/admin assistant: $50,000
    Lease 2,000 feet of office space: $50,000
    Tables and chairs for 30: $10,000
    Books and other materials for kids, etc @1,500 per kid, plus some for teacher: $40,000

    That leaves $10,000 as a cushion against unexpected expenses.

    So, except for one small detail, it would be pretty profitable to go into the education business. That one small thing?

    * Dealing with federal, state and local bureaucracy: $1 Million

    Too bad.

  5. Soapbox Diva says:

    Forget averages, what I would really like to see is median numbers. Also an average does not mean much if a there a huge gap in the extremes. One school may spend $20,000 per child while another spends only $3,000, but the average does not reflect the difference in range. Dut to relying on property tax systems and other outdated systems of taxation, this range in difference is very important.

    I remember that the Indianapolis metro area had almost a four to one ratio difference on spending per child when I was in grad school about a decade ago. On top of it, the schools with the least amount per student tended to be the older building with higher repair costs and higher operating costs due to being old and drafty. The older schools were still beautiful, but the lower area incomes and high concentration of non-profits in the area that were tax-exempt, really lowered the tax base that the schools relied on for funding.

    If your child is on the lower extreme of that average, then the average does not mean that much.

  6. Lots, actually.

    $80,000 for a “head” teacher? Maybe with all costs so we’ll let that go.
    $50,000 for and assistant teacher/admin assistant? With a classroom of 25 kids? Yeah, dream on.
    2,000 sq. ft for $50,000 = $25/sq. ft./year. That’s pretty good for prime office space in this depressed economy but obviously way too expensive for school space since a tony address in a glitzy building adds zip to educational outcomes. $10 to $12/sq. ft./year seems closer to the rental rate appropriate to a school. $20,000 to $24,000/year.
    Tables and chairs? Let’s pro-rate them over some reasonable lifetime like five years. I assume these are human children and not wolverine cubs that inhabit the classroom. $2,000.
    $1,500/kid for books and supplies? Uh, no. You can buy the content-free, bloated products that are common currency in cost-is-no-object public schools but I’ll pop for open source textbooks that cost no more then printing costs and, oh by the way, are becoming more available as e-books. Let’s say $200/kid/year for consumables and that’s being generous. $5,000.

    $111,000 which leaves a “cushion” of $130,650 or $4,440/kid/year. Oh, and that’s for a *full* year not the abbreviated bow to our agricultural heritage that passes for a school “year” now. By the way, that’s only a bit more then the average for private schools nationa-wide.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    There’s a story that the late Sen. Moynihan commissioned a survey of available data and concluded that there is a greater correlation between educational success and propinquity to the Canadian border than between educational success and per-pupil expenditures. Kind of a joker, that guy.

    From time to time, we’ll hear stories about the great disparity between the urban schools–poor–and the profligate ‘burbs. Usually nonsense. In the Detroit area, Lamphere, a small, prosperous district, had pretty high per-pupil expenditures. The usual suspects always howled about Lamphere–planting the axiom that all the burbs were at that level–compared to Detroit. But a bit of research, or another article an unwary editor let through would tell us that almost no ‘burbs were spending as much as Detroit. IOW, a fraudulent story.

    In our area, there seems to be a strong negative correlation between the administrators’ travel and conference budget and educational success. Note. Few educational conferences are held in Fargo in January.

  8. I’d be interested in knowing what the source of these numbers is–it seems low to me, especially if you are going to count all the resources tied up in special ed. I know that the official reported numbers in New York State specifically exclude the special ed programs, which is why the numbers released for any given school district DON’T equal the total expenditures divided by the number of students (which is much higher).

    Oh, BTW, in most districts, about 60-70% goes to paying the teachers. Increase the funding and it goes to increased salaries and not to more books, better buildings, etc.


    “A Newsday analysis of state education statistics shows the per-pupil spending average on Long Island in 2007 was $21,378.
    Just a year later, it jumped to $25,029.”

    $25,000. for 180 days.
    We are nuts.

  10. allen:

    I meant to go a bit overboard and show a sort of utopian idea. The point was that, if the free market were allowed to compete, it would certainly be possible to provide a nice education for a the money we spend now and probably a good deal less.

    At $80,000 per year, you would be paying a highly trained, motivated and professional teacher who would have an assistant to answer the phones, make the photocopies and so on (also, a built-in substitute).

    With $1500 per year per kid, you could not only afford to buy some books and science materials, but you would be able to fund a few experts to come in and present some little seminars on certain topics.

    As I said, it’s a utopian dream.

  11. And what I meant Rob is that considerations of resources, i.e. money, are misplaced.

    If anything, American public education is over-funded although that’s not the source of the ills that plague the institution. I know that opinion will draw a snort of derision from most people but the experience of both charters and private schools proves beyond any reasonable argument that funding isn’t why kids graduate from high school unable to read their diploma.

  12. Charles R. Williams says:

    I wonder why the explosion in spending for public education is some kind of investment – despite little to show for it – and the explosion in spending on medical care is a threat to our way of life.

  13. You forgot medical benefits (such as they are), technology, the school nurse, and SPED, Rob.

  14. tim-10-ber says:

    Fascinating conversation!! When my district’s data comes out I will eliminate the pre-K and adult learners. Of course my district just had yanked it contract to do the GED rep classes. This will put the per pupil expenditure close to some of the better private school costs and yet…we still fail to provide the children with a quality education.

    Who says education needs more money?????

  15. Ponderosa says:

    Much of that money gets siphoned off to technology companies who dupe districts into buying expensive products that do nothing to improve education. They just make it LOOK as if the local superintendent is improving education. Our district goes on tech buying binges frequently. This year we have fancy new voice-over internet phones that can manage conference calls with Mars, Jupiter and Outer Mongolia and save it to a file on your computer (uh huh, we definitely needed that). We’re also getting fancy “thin client” computers and higher-speed Internet (um, my old computer WORKED). And every classroom is getting Lumens projectors and document cameras (my current computer projector is one year old…to the scrap heap). And then there’s the plethora of test data software and other educational software products we buy and pay fees for every year. The total expenditures must be gigantic. School administrators seem to have TIDS –Technology Immunity Deficiency Syndrome. They seem incapable of resisting the pitches of tech sales people.

  16. Ragnarok says:

    “Much of that money gets siphoned off to technology companies who dupe districts into buying expensive products that do nothing to improve education.”

    Dupe? Dupe our incredibly brilliant and highly-paid school administrators and teachers? Not hardly likely.

    There’s too much money in the school systems, and that attracts a lot of flies. Unreadable textbooks, laptops, counselors, state-of-the-art gymnasia and sports fields – they’re all there because there’s too much money.

    It isn’t easy to turn off the spigot, though. At the first mention of a cut we’re treated to images of weeping children and panic-stricken parents, not to mention noble teachers and administrators standing up “for the kids”.

  17. What concerns me is what’s not included in these numbers, namely, pension obligations that schools and government agencies are on the hook for. If pensions don’t start seeing very large rates of return on their investments going forward, contributions are going to have to go up dramatically in the near future.

  18. Ragnarok,

    Why include teachers in your rant? Do you actually believe we have a say so in what technology gets bought for schools?

  19. Kevin Smith says:

    Ponderosa – please tell me where your scrap heap will be – my schools tech budget is near non-existent.