Home > Uncategorized > An Under-Reported Statistic: Spending on Education Declined for 4 Straight Years

An Under-Reported Statistic: Spending on Education Declined for 4 Straight Years

January 27, 2016

To read reports in the media, one would surmise that school budgets have risen uncontrollably over the years and are higher now than they’ve ever been. I was therefore surprised to read in the Politico education blog that school spending had declined for the previous four years… and the decline was substantial! Here’s a paste from the post that was sent to my email address:

National spending on public school students has fallen for the fourth straight year in a row, but decreases in per student spending are starting to slow down, according to two new school finance reports from the National Center for Education Statistics. That means education spending in the U.S. is starting to get a boost from the gradual economic recovery, said Stephen Cornman, author of the reports. Nationally, spending per student increased steadily each year between 2003-04 and 2007-08, peaking in 2008-09 at $11,621 per student. While it has decreased each year since then, it only decreased by a marginal 0.6 percent between FY 2012 and FY 2013. “I think it’s possible that expenditures per pupil will increase in the next fiscal year we report, which is 2014, just because this trend of decreases has been dwindling down,” Cornman said. National spending per public school student was $10,763 in FY 2013, ranging from $6,432 per student in Utah to $20,530 per student in D.C. All 50 states and D.C. reported more than $603 billion collected in total funding for public education in 2013, 91 percent of which came from state and local governments.

That works out to being roughly 8% less spending over a four year period, a time when both political parties have been paying lip service to the need for more Pre-school programs, better results from public schools, and the need for us to upgrade our schools to compete globally. The NCES study also indicated how the funding is disparate based on the location of the schools:

Nationally, and without any geographic cost adjustment, median spending per student was $9,353 in cities, $11,041 in suburbs, $9,214 in towns and $10,347 in rural areas.

These figures undercut the claim that money doesn’t matter. When suburban schools spend nearly $1700 more per student than urban schools is it any surprise that they get higher test scores? Higher per pupil spending translates to higher salaries, lower class sizes, better facilities, and more access to technology and materials of instruction. Any one of those items would make a difference… but taken together they illustrate the inequities that exist in public education funding today.


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