U.S. spends average $8,701 per pupil on education

WASHINGTON Thu May 24, 2007 4:54pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States spent an average of $8,701 per pupil to educate its children in 2005, the Census Bureau said on Thursday, with some states paying more than twice as much per student as others.

New York was the biggest spender on education, at $14,119 per student, with New Jersey second at $13,800 and Washington, D.C., third at $12,979, the Census Bureau said. Seven of the top 10 education spenders were Northeastern states.

The states with the lowest spending were Utah, at $5,257 per pupil, Arizona $6,261, Idaho $6,283, Mississippi $6,575 and Oklahoma $6,613. The 10 states with the lowest education spending were in the West or South.

Overall the United States spent an average of $8,701 per student on elementary and secondary education in 2005, up 5 percent from $8,287 the previous year, the bureau said.

Funding is largely a state and local responsibility under the U.S. system, with 47 percent coming from state governments, 43.9 percent from local sources and only 9.1 percent from the federal government.

Students in northeastern and northern states tend to perform better on standardized tests than students in southern and southwestern states. But experts say the correlation between spending and testing performance is not strong.

The "No Child Left Behind" education reforms passed during President George W. Bush's first term have placed increased emphasis on performance on national standardized tests. Schools can be penalized if they repeatedly fail to meet targets for improving student scores.

"It's not necessarily so that states with higher spending have higher test scores," said Tom Loveless, an education policy expert at the Brookings Institution think tank.

He said Washington, D.C., has among the highest spending in the country but its students have among the lowest scores on standardized tests, while some states like Montana with relatively low spending have fairly high performance on tests.

Loveless said two areas where education spending might make a difference were in teacher salaries and small class sizes for first graders. But overall, the relationship between spending on education and test performance was not strong, he said.

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