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Public education spending per student declined in 2011

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According to a report released today from the U.S. Census Bureau, the per student public education expenditures in America declined in Fiscal Year 2011, for the first time in nearly four decades.

Fiscal year 2011 marked the first decrease in per student public education spending since the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting data on an annual basis in 1977, according to new statistics released today (dollars not adjusted for inflation). The 50 states and the District of Columbia spent $10,560 per student in 2011, down 0.4 percent from 2010. The top spenders were New York ($19,076), the District of Columbia ($18,475), Alaska ($16,674), New Jersey ($15,968) and Vermont ($15,925).

On average, Kentucky school districts spent about $8,948 per student; putting the
Commonwealth at No. 38 in the country, in terms of per-pupil spending on elementary and secondary schools.

In Metro Louisville, the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) spends $10,578 per student; slightly higher than the national average. For this money, JCPS achieves a graduation rate even lower than the state average.

Total expenditures by public elementary and secondary school systems totaled $595.1 billion in 2011, down 1.1 percent from 2010. This is the second time total expenditures have shown a year-to-year decrease, the first time being 2010.

Today’s findings come from Public Education Finances: 2011. These statistics provide figures on revenues, expenditures, debt and assets (cash and security holdings) of the nation's elementary and secondary public school systems for the 2011 fiscal year. The release includes detailed statistics on spending — such as instruction, student transportation, salaries and employee benefits — at the national, state and school district levels.

Of the $595.1 billion in total expenditures for public school systems, $522.1 billion is comprised of current spending (i.e. operational expenditures, not including long-term debt). Expenditure for instruction amounted to $316.3 billion (60.6 percent) of the total current spending, while costs for support services amounted to $178.7 billion (34.2 percent). Instructional salaries were the largest expenditure category for public elementary and secondary education, accounting for $208.8 billion in 2011.

On the revenue side, public schools received $599.1 billion in total revenue for 2011, an increase of 1.1 percent from 2010. The largest source of revenue is from state governments at $265.9 billion (44.4 percent of total revenue), followed by local governments at $259.5 billion (43.3 percent) and the federal government providing $73.7 billion (12.3 percent).

States that had the highest percentage of their total public school revenue coming from federal funding included Mississippi (22.3 percent of the statewide education revenue), South Dakota (20.3 percent), Louisiana (18.7 percent), Alaska (17.8 percent), Florida (17.8 percent) and New Mexico (17.7 percent).

Conversely, states that had the lowest percentage of their total school revenue coming from federal funding were New Jersey (5.1 percent), New Hampshire (6.5 percent), Vermont (7.1 percent), Massachusetts (7.8 percent), Minnesota (7.8 percent) and Connecticut (8.3 percent).

Other highlights:

--Property taxes accounted for 65.6 percent of revenue from local sources for public school systems.

--Of the 100 largest school systems by enrollment in the U.S., New York City School District ($19,770) in New York had the highest current spending per student in 2011, followed by Baltimore City Public Schools in Maryland ($15,483), Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland ($15,421), Milwaukee Public School in Wisconsin ($14,244) and Prince George's County Public Schools in Maryland ($13,775).

--States spending the least per student were Mississippi ($7,928), Arizona ($7,666), Oklahoma ($7,587), Idaho ($6,824) and Utah ($6,212).

--Eight out of nine states in the Northeast region of the U.S. were ranked among the top 15 in current spending per student in 2011. The remaining state in the northeast, Maine, was ranked 17th. Out of the 16 states with the lowest per student spending, 15 were in the South and West regions. The remaining state, South Dakota, was in the Midwest.

The data used in the tabulations came from a census of all 15,345 public school systems. As such, they are not subject to sampling error. Although quality assurance methods were applied to all phases of data collection and processing, the data are subject to nonsampling error, including errors of response and miscoding. For more information, visit the Census Bureau's website at http://www.census.gov/govs/school/.

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