These states invest the most in their children’s education

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Whether students are in school or on summer break, the future of public education funding is always a major topic in the national conversation. In May 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau released the updated Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data for the fiscal year 2017. According to the survey, total educational revenue for public elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. was $694 billion in 2017, representing an overall increase from $671 billion in 2016.

How is public education funded?

While a small amount of school funding comes from the federal government, most educational revenue comes from a combination of state sources ($327 billion) and local sources ($312 billion).

For example, local governments collect property taxes, a portion of which is put towards education. Across the entire U.S., the amount of local property taxes put towards public elementary-secondary education was $203 billion in 2017, making it one of the largest sources of public education funding. With such heavy reliance on property taxes for school funding, impoverished areas generally have less money to spend on their students. However, low-income students require more resources to succeed academically, and experts believe this inequality of educational access ultimately leads to gaps in academic and economic outcomes later in life.

What are funds used for?

Of the funds spent on public and secondary education, the majority goes toward instruction and administrative support. More specifically, schools spent $326 billion for teacher salaries and benefits in 2017. In addition, $209 billion went to support services, which include general administration, school administration, public transportation, and operations.

Does funding impact outcomes?

With 48.6 million total students enrolled in public primary and secondary schools in 2017, per-pupil spending was $12,201, an increase of 3.6 percent compared to 2016. At the state level, per pupil spending ranges from a high of $23,091 to a low of $7,179 per year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a strong correlation between per-pupil spending and teacher salaries across states. The average teacher salary nationwide is $58,950, but the state average varies significantly. For example, the average teacher in South Dakota makes $42,668 per year; whereas the average teacher in New York makes $79,637.

While teacher salaries are directly affected by school funding, the correlation between student performance and education funding is more complex. Looking at data from fiscal year 2017, states that spend more per student aren’t more likely to have better outcomes. The nationwide high school graduation rate is 84.6 percent, and at the state level, there is no clear correlation with per-pupil spending. Academic performance, as measured by test scores in math and reading, also show no correlation with per-pupil spending based on data from the Nation’s Report Card.

At first glance, this snapshot of data might suggest that academic performance is independent of spending and that additional investment in education is not needed. However, test scores and graduation rates are not the only measures of academic performance and only looking at a single point in time can’t paint a comprehensive picture of the variety of factors at play. A large body of academic research suggests that more funding does have positive effects on student outcomes.

A 2015 study of school finance reforms found that a 10 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school results in 0.31 more completed years of education, 7 percent higher wages, and a 3.2 percentage point reduction in adult poverty. The effects were much more pronounced for low-income students, who tend to have lower levels of literacy, higher dropout rates, and lower matriculation rates.

A 2017 report released by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy indicated that increased funding can be effective for student outcomes when applied to a particular set of conditions, such as reducing class sizes or creating more educational opportunities for disadvantaged students. The same study also suggests that funding dual enrollment programs, in which high school students take courses for college credit, have been proven to increase academic achievement. A 2018 report by the Learning Policy Institute reached similar conclusions, underscoring the importance of applying for school funding strategically to yield the best student outcomes.

Given this body of research and large disparities in educational spending among states, HeyTutor wanted to find which states invest the most and least per student on public education. HeyTutor’s researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau, National Center for Education Statistics, and the Nation’s Report Card. They looked at per-pupil spending as well as academic performance across all states.

The states spending the most on public education tend to be located in the Northeast, while those spending the least are located in the West or the South. Here are the states spending the most and least on public education:

States spending the most on public education

1. New York

Total spending per student: $23,091
Instructional spending per student: $16,113
Support services spending per student: $6,480
Total spending: $63.62 billion
Average teacher salary: $79,637
Graduation rate: 81.8%
Academic performance: Average

2. District of Columbia

Total spending per student: $21,974
Instructional spending per student: $12,195
Support services spending per student: $8,930
Total spending: $1.15 billion
Average teacher salary: $76,131
Graduation rate: 73.2%
Academic performance: Significantly below average

3. Connecticut

Total spending per student: $19,322
Instructional spending per student: $11,861
Support services spending per student: $6,775
Total spending: $9.92 billion
Average teacher salary: $72,561
Graduation rate: 87.9%
Academic performance: Above average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. New Jersey
Total spending per student: $18,920
Instructional spending per student: $11,076
Support services spending per student: $7,208
Total spending: $27.45 billion
Average teacher salary: $69,623
Graduation rate: 90.5%
Academic performance: Significantly above average

5. Vermont

Total spending per student: $18,290
Instructional spending per student: $11,039
Support services spending per student: $6,743
Total spending: $1.69 billion
Average teacher salary: $60,187
Graduation rate: 89.1%
Academic performance: Significantly above average

6. Alaska

Total spending per student: $17,838
Instructional spending per student: $9,538
Support services spending per student: $7,638
Total spending: $2.38 billion
Average teacher salary: $68,138
Graduation rate: 78.2%
Academic performance: Below average

7. Wyoming

Total spending per student: $16,537
Instructional spending per student: $9,779
Support services spending per student: $6,265
Total spending: $1.56 billion
Average teacher salary: $58,650
Graduation rate: 86.2%
Academic performance: Above average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Massachusetts
Total spending per student: $16,197
Instructional spending per student: $10,060
Support services spending per student: $5,620
Total spending: $16.11 billion
Average teacher salary: $77,804
Graduation rate: 88.3%
Academic performance: Significantly above average

9. Rhode Island

Total spending per student: $15,943
Instructional spending per student: $9,299
Support services spending per student: $6,193
Total spending: $2.31 billion
Average teacher salary: $66,477
Graduation rate: 84.1%
Academic performance: Below average

10. Pennsylvania

Total spending per student: $15,798
Instructional spending per student: $9,719
Support services spending per student: $5,474
Total spending: $27.51 billion
Average teacher salary: $65,863
Graduation rate: 86.6%
Academic performance: Above average

States spending the least on education

1. Utah

Total spending per student: $7,179
Instructional spending per student: $4,594
Support services spending per student: $2,173
Total spending: $4.28 billion
Average teacher salary: $47,244
Graduation rate: 86.0%
Academic performance: Above average

2. Idaho

Total spending per student: $7,486
Instructional spending per student: $4,435
Support services spending per student: $2,667
Total spending: $2.09 billion
Average teacher salary: $47,504
Graduation rate: 79.7%
Academic performance: Above average

3. Oklahoma

Total spending per student: $7,940
Instructional spending per student: $4,447
Support services spending per student: $2,913
Total spending: $5.34 billion
Average teacher salary: $45,245
Graduation rate: 82.6%
Academic performance: Below average

4. Arizona

Total spending per student: $8,003
Instructional spending per student: $4,308
Support services spending per student: $3,260
Total spending: $7.63 billion
Average teacher salary: $47,403
Graduation rate: 78.0%
Academic performance: Average

5. Mississippi

Total spending per student: $8,771
Instructional spending per student: $4,971
Support services spending per student: $3,235
Total spending: $4.24 billion
Average teacher salary: $42,925
Graduation rate: 83.0%
Academic performance: Significantly below average

6. North Carolina

Total spending per student: $9,072
Instructional spending per student: $5,712
Support services spending per student: $2,888
Total spending: $13.29 billion
Average teacher salary: $49,837
Graduation rate: 86.6%
Academic performance: Average

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Florida
Total spending per student: $9,075
Instructional spending per student: $5,593
Support services spending per student: $3,012
Total spending: $26.00 billion
Average teacher salary: $49,407
Graduation rate: 82.3%
Academic performance: Average

8. Tennessee

Total spending per student: $9,184
Instructional spending per student: $5,584
Support services spending per student: $3,090
Total spending: $9.27 billion
Average teacher salary: $48,456
Graduation rate: 89.8%
Academic performance: Below average

9. Nevada

Total spending per student: $9,320
Instructional spending per student: $5,472
Support services spending per student: $3,467
Total spending: $4.15 billion
Average teacher salary: $57,376
Graduation rate: 80.9%
Academic performance: Below average

10. Texas

Total spending per student: $9,375
Instructional spending per student: $5,542
Support services spending per student: $3,338
Total spending: $48.03 billion
Average teacher salary: $52,575
Graduation rate: 89.7%
Academic performance: Below average

Methodology & full results

Spending and enrollment statistics are from the U.S. Census Bureau 2017 Annual Survey of School System Finances, released in 2019. Average teacher salaries and graduation rates are from the National Center for Education Statistics. The graduation rate shown is the high school 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate. Academic performance is derived from the Math and Reading assessments of the Nation’s Report Card.

All of the data is for public elementary and secondary schools only. States are ordered by the per-student spending for 2017.

This article first appeared on Heytutor.com.