The states that spend the most on their public schools

  • Using the most recent data from the Census Bureau's Annual Survey of School System Finances, we looked at which states spend the most per pupil in their public school systems.
  • The Census Bureau said in a press release about the 2018 fiscal year figures that spending had increased again; one reason for this was because of an increase in revenue. 
  • New York spent the most in the 2018 fiscal year at $24,040 per pupil.
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Public school spending varies across the US, with some states spending more than others.

Using the latest figures from the Census Bureau's 2018 Annual Survey of School System Finances, we looked at which states spend the most per pupil in public schools. Some elementary and secondary school expenses include salaries, wages, and employee benefits.

According to a May press release from the Census Bureau, overall spending has increased by 3.4% to $12,612 per pupil from $12,201. The government agency notes this sixth-consecutive year of an increase was "due in part to an overall increase in revenue."

Based on 2018 fiscal year figures, New York spends the most per pupil at $24,040, followed by DC at $22,759. Overall, the Northeast spends the most per pupil, where the regions' current average spending per pupil is $19,953.

One issue when looking at school spending per pupil across the country is differences in the cost of living.

Education Week previously took those differences into account and adjusted school state spending per pupil with regional costs to better compare across states. After adjusting for geographic differences in cost of living in their Quality Counts 2019 report, Education Week found Vermont spent the most per student, followed by New York. Utah spent the least according to their results. Similarly, in their Quality Counts 2018 report, they found Vermont spent the most and Utah spent the least. Alaska took on the second highest spot in their 2018 report.

There are also differences in school spending for school districts within the state that can be found through the individual district level dataset on the Census Bureau.

The following are the 9 states and DC that spend the most per pupil in elementary and secondary public schools.

10. Wyoming spends $16,224 per student.

Total instruction spending per student: $9,642

9. Pennsylvania spends $16,395 per student.

Total instruction spending per student: $10,108

8. New Hampshire spends $16,893 per student.

Total instruction spending per student: $10,586

7. Massachusetts spends $17,058 per student.

Total instruction spending per student: $10,677

6. Alaska spends $17,726 per student.

Total instruction spending per student: $9,495

5. Vermont spends $19,340 per student.

Total instruction spending per student: $11,583

4. New Jersey spends $20,021 per student.

Total instruction spending per student: $11,804

3. Connecticut spends $20,635 per student.

Total instruction spending per student: $12,343

2. District of Columbia spends $22,759 per student.

Total instruction spending per student: $13,365

1. New York spends $24,040 per student.

Total instruction spending per student: $16,661

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