Policy & Funding

Public School Revenue and Spending Up in Latest Year of Reporting

The National Center for Education Statistics has produced its latest "first look" report, providing interesting data on state-level revenues and expenditures in public schools, covering fiscal year 2016 (school year 2015-2016).

While the country took in $678 billion in revenues, up four percent from the previous year, its overall spending on elementary and secondary education across the nation increased by just 2.9 percent year over year, compared to a bump of 3.2 percent in the previous year. Total revenues per student averaged $13,474 on a national basis, up 3.9 percent from the previous year. Most states saw increases of at least one percent.

The lion's share of funding came from state and local governments, which provided 92 percent of all revenues. The federal government contributed a little over eight percent. While state monies rose by 4.9 percent (from $304 billion to $319 billion) and local monies increased by 3.7 percent (from $293 billion to $304 billion), federal revenue rose by just 1.1 percent (from $55 billion to $56 billion).

Public School Revenue and Spending Up in Latest Year of Reporting

Current spending per pupil for public schools, by state, for school year 2015-2016. Source: National Center for Education Statistics

On the spending side, the average expenditure per pupil was $11,841 at the national level, up 2.8 percent from the previous year. The size of the expenditure state by state varied widely, ranging from $7,006 in Utah to $22,231 in New York. The increases from fiscal year 2015 to 2016 were highest in California (8.6 percent), Washington (6.8 percent), New York (6.5 percent), Hawaii (6.2 percent) and Pennsylvania (4.6 percent).

Salaries and wages, along with employee benefits, made up four-fifths of overall spending (accounting for $476.5 billion).

Of the $677.5 billion in total expenditures, 88 percent went to current expenditures. These consist of the day-to-day costs of operating schools and districts, including salaries and benefits, supplies and purchased services. An additional eight percent was dedicated to capital outlays, 2.6 percent covered interest on debt and 1.2 percent went to the costs of other programs, such as community services or adult education.

Federal Title I grants for economically disadvantaged students stayed level at $14.7 billion. The per-pupil expenditure for those varied from $139 in Utah to $484 in Mississippi.

The data used in this report comes from the National Public Education Finance Survey, a component of the Common Core of Data, the primary NCES Statistics database on public elementary and secondary education in the United States. State education agencies report the information annually to NCES.

The complete report is openly available on the NCES website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.