Schools spent an average of $13,187 per student nationwide in FY 2019, which was a 5% increase from the year before and the highest average amount spent per pupil since 2008, according to new numbers posted by the U.S. Census Bureau this week.
In total, schools spent $752.3 billion in FY 2019, with about one-third of the expenditures dedicated to instructional salaries. State governments contributed the largest share of funding for public education at $350.9 billion, followed by local revenue ($342.9 billion) and local spending ($57.9 billion).
The federal contribution for education in FY 2021 has jumped due to emergency relief funding in response to the pandemic. The Biden administration also has proposed a 40.8% increase in annual appropriations for early education, K-12 programs and higher education in FY 2022.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of School System Finances shows New York state had the highest per pupil expenditure rate at $25,139 and Idaho had the lowest at $7,985. The data also shows, among other statistics, the year-over-year per pupil increase per state and revenue levels of the 100 largest public K-12 elementary and secondary school systems.
The historical statistics may be helpful as school administrators prioritize spending of federal emergency money they have or anticipate receiving in appropriate and equitable ways, and without hitting a funding cliff when pandemic-related fiscal supports run out.
For example, some administrators are avoiding hiring a lot of new employees, whose salaries may be unsustainable in the long run. Instead, school systems are looking to build staffing capacity through professional development and coaching, and to expand and bolster learning opportunities for students.
“You need to really have a thoughtful plan for how you've identified what your needs are,” said Stephen Pruitt, president of Southern Regional Education Board, during an April webinar co-hosted by FutureED.
There are also certain timeline and allocation restrictions districts need to be mindful of. For example, 20% of American Rescue Plan funds at a district level must be spent on evidence-based programming that addresses learning loss and the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on students of color, English learners, students with disabilities and other student subgroups.
The $200 billion in total emergency funding is equivalent to about $4,000 per pupil, according to Michael Griffith, senior researcher and policy analyst with the Learning Policy Institute.