Public Education Costs per Pupil by State Rankings
This post has been updated as of January 2018.
The United States spent an average of $11,392 per pupil educating its young people in the nation’s elementary-secondary school systems in fiscal year 2015. According to the most recent data available by the U.S. Census Bureau (released in 2017), this is the largest increase in per pupil spending since 2008, when the U.S. spent a reported $11,009 per pupil.
Where do schools get their money?
Schools are financed from three main sources: local, state and federal funds. For the 2015 fiscal year, total school revenues were $642.6 billion. The bulk of the revenue increase came from state and local sources, with the federal government contributing to the remaining share of elementary-secondary revenue.
Broken down by revenue sources, here is how that total was reached:
- Local revenues: $286.7 billion (44.6 percent of total revenues)
- State revenues: $302.6 billion (47.1 percent of total revenues)
- Federal revenues: $53.3 billion (8.3 percent of total revenues)
Where are schools spending their money?
Of the $639.5 billion in budget spending by U.S. schools for the 2015 fiscal year, $344.3 billion was spent on Instruction: salaries and wages comprising $216.9 billion and employee benefits the other $87.1 billion. Support services expenditures totaled $194.4 billion and is distributed as follows:
- $31.6 billion: Pupil support services
- $30.3 billion: School administration
- $26.2 billion: Instructional staff support services
- $24.1 billion: Pupil transportation
- $10.6 billion: General administration
- $51.6 billion: Operation and maintenance of plant
- $20.0 billion: Other and non-specified support services
Costs per student by state
Public education by state rankings show that New York spent the most per pupil at $21,206. Nationally, the top five school districts per student spending were Anchorage School District, Alaska ($17,046), Baltimore City Schools, Maryland ($15,818), Boston City Schools, Massachusetts ($21,552), Howard County Schools, Maryland ($15,714), and New York City School District, New York ($21,980).
The states spending the least on a per-pupil basis in 2015 are Utah ($6,575), Idaho ($6,923), Arizona ($7,489), and Oklahoma ($8,082).
Other notes of interest:
- States with the highest spending on instruction salaries in 2015 were District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont
- States with the lowest spending on overall instruction in 2015 were Utah, Idaho, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Mississippi
- States that received the highest percentage of funding from federal sources in 2015 were Louisiana (14.7%), Mississippi (14.7%), South Dakota (14.6%), Arizona (13.4%) and New Mexico (13.2%)
Here is a complete list of public education by state rankings on a per-pupil spending basis. States are listed alphabetically:
District of Columbia: $19,396
New Hampshire: $14,697
New Jersey: $18,235
New Mexico: $9,752
New York: $21,206
North Carolina: $8,687
North Dakota: $13,320
Rhode Island: $15,179
South Carolina: $9,953
South Dakota: $8,937
West Virginia: $11,359
- "Annual Survey of School System Finances," U.S. Census Bureau | Public Elementary–Secondary Education Finance Data