Education Spending by State: the Numbers behind Education Funding

Education is an essential part of our society. It provides the foundation for a successful and productive life, so it's no surprise that states invest heavily in education. But which states are spending the most on public schools? In this article, we will look at the five states that have the highest per-pupil spending for public education. We'll also highlight some other interesting education-related statistics and contextualize them within the larger education landscape.

Why Does Education Spending Matter?

Education spending is an important factor in the success of students and communities alike. Not only does it fund the necessary expenses for teachers and administrators, but it also provides resources to support learning and growth. It can provide students with the tools and resources needed to succeed in school, such as textbooks and technology, as well as extracurricular activities that promote physical and mental development.

By investing in education, states are essentially investing in the future of their citizens and the overall economy. Studies have shown that higher education spending leads to better educational outcomes, such as higher graduation rates and increased college enrollment.  It also has a positive economic impact, as more educated citizens tend to have higher incomes and generate more wealth for their communities.

What States Spend the Most on Education?

So, which states come out on top when it comes to education spending? We've listed the top five as per Learner's expert review below.

Note that the following rankings are mainly based on total spending per pupil over the entire public education cycle, from kindergarten to post-secondary school.

Alaska

Alaska commits the most funding to its educational system overall. According to the data, it spends an average of $53,124 per student throughout its academic career. This money doesn't all come from the same place; of the multiple sources that make up Alaska's education spending, roughly 85.39% is from the state itself, while the remaining 14.61% is education funding contributed by the federal government. It's estimated that 1.40% of taxpayer income is used for K-12 spending, the second highest proportion in the country behind Alabama.

Michigan

Michigan invests a lot of money into its school systems and ranks second in the country for the total amount spent per student at $46,887 between kindergarten and post-secondary education. Within grade levels, this breaks down to $13,072 for K–12 and $33,815 for college. When compared to Alaska, Michigan's local government does more of the heavy lifting in funding its public education programs, with a 91.63% share. About 0.90% of taxpayer income goes towards the cause, while the remaining amount is covered by federal funding.

Hawaii

Hawaii isn't just a great place to live for its warm and beachy climate; the state is also home to one of the best-funded education systems in the country. Taking the third spot in national rankings, Hawaii is estimated to invest $46,363 into each of its students' academic journeys. Between K-12 and post-secondary school, this breaks down to $15,205 and $31,158, respectively. The island state goes slightly farther than Michigan to cover 91.73% of its public education expenses or roughly 0.80% of taxpayer dollars. The federal government chips in for the last 8.27% of costs.

New Mexico

Coming in at number four, New Mexico spends an average of $45,717 per student across their educational career. This includes a share of $9,987 for K–12 and $35,730 for higher education. The state's local government covers 86.62% of the cost of public education, while the federal government takes care of 13.38%, and 0.80% of taxpayer money is put towards this cause.

Oregon

Oregon rounds out the top five states in terms of education spending, with an average investment per student of $44,506. About one quarter ($11,340) of this total is spent through grades K–12, while the remaining $33,166 goes to college-level learning. New Mexico contributes the most local dollars to its public education system than the other top five states on the list, at 93.19%. Surprisingly, it also has the least taxpayer income allocated to education, at 0.70%.

Other Noteworthy Observations

Beyond the question of who invests the most, there are a number of other interesting observations to be made when it comes to public education spending. For example, the difference between Alaska's highest spending and Idaho's lowest is a large $33,463 gap. New York, while officially ranked 11th, spends the most on K–12 education, with devotion of $25,520 per student. By contrast, New Mexico sends most of its dollars to post-secondary education, at $35,730 per pupil.

Additionally, it's worth noting that five of the bottom eleven states for education spending also rank in the bottom eleven states for math scores in the nation. The District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Idaho, Florida, and West Virginia all made both lists, which may indicate a correlation between low investment and educational performance.

Final Thoughts

The amount of money states decide to invest in their education systems says a lot about their commitment to the future of their citizens. It's clear that although some states contribute more than others, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to education spending. Each state has its own budget, priorities, and goals, and its investment in the academic aspirations of its students is reflective of those factors.

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