Things have changed

Median salaries have more than doubled in real dollars since 1940 and the percentage of college graduates has gone from 5 percent of adults to 28 percent.

U.S. schools spend $10,259 per student

U.S. public schools spent $10,259 per student in 2007-08, according to a Census Bureau report. New York, topping the nation at $17,173 per student, spent roughly three times more than Utah, which spent only $5,765 per student.

The national average represented a 6.1 percent increase over the year before.

Other top spenders were New Jersey ($16,491), Alaska ($14,630), the District of Columbia ($14,594), Vermont ($14,300) and Connecticut ($13,848). After Utah, low spenders were Idaho ($6,931), Arizona ($7,608), Oklahoma ($7,685) and Tennessee ($7,739).

Instructional salaries made up 40.2 percent of school spending, the report found.

Louisiana had the highest percentage of public-school funding from the federal government at 16.8%, followed by Mississippi (16%) and South Dakota (15.2%). The lowest percentages were in New Jersey (3.9%), Connecticut (4.2%) and Massachusetts (5.1%).

Nationwide, 8.1 percent of school spending came from federal sources.

With many large Mormon families, Utah and Idaho have more students per taxpayer than other states, notes the Deseret News.

School districts cope through a number of methods, such as hiring uncertified employees to man their libraries, and relying on aides who receive on-the-job training. This year, at least eight districts will be cutting back on their instructional days, and in districts throughout the state, portable classrooms are used as a means of accommodating population surges and staving off building projects until funding is available.

And those large Mormon families don’t produce a lot of problem children. Uncertified library aides and portables are common in California, which spent $9,863 per student, 28th in the nation, according to the Census report.

Update: Charter schools do no better than district-run schools, says American Federation of Teachers leader Randi Weingarten. A reader writes: Five thousand years of Jewish history and we finally find a Jewish woman who boasts of paying retail.

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.