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Five Interesting Tidbits in New Census School Finance Data

The headlines from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2011 school finance data release focused on per-pupil spending, which dropped for the first time in nearly 40 years. But this school finance report is full of other interesting data as well. Some highlights:

1. While school spending overall was down, from $522 billion in 2011 compared to $523 billion in 2010, there was one category that saw a spending increase: employee benefits. Even as districts were spending less on wages (by 1.2 percent), health insurance and retirement costs rose by 0.4 percent. That's not very much, clearly, but still an increase as other spending was going down. This is a trend Chad Aldeman explains well over at the Quick & the Ed.

2. The states with the largest declines in per-pupil spending in 2011, compared to 2010, were: Idaho (4 percent), Illinois (7.4 percent), Maine (6.7 percent), and New Jersey (5.2 percent).

3. The states with the largest increases in per-pupil spending were: Alaska (5.6 percent), Connecticut (4.7 percent), Kentucky (4 percent), New Hampshire (6.8 percent), Vermont (4.3 percent), and Wyoming (4.5 percent).

4. Some school districts get a lot of money from private contributions, which the Census also collects data on. The top five beneficiaries of private donors in 2011 were: New York City ($43.9 million), District of Columbia ($21.8 million), Clark County in Nevada ($13.8 million), Cincinnati ($13.3 million), and Hillsborough County in Florida ($12.1 million).

5. The federal share of school spending is still well above where it was before the recession and the economic-stimulus package. In 2011, 12.3 percent of revenue for schools came from federal sources and 44 percent from state. (The rest came from local property taxes). That's slightly less than the high of 12.5 percent that came from federal sources in 2010, when stimulus money was raining down. By contrast, in 2008, 8.1 percent came from the federal government and 48.3 percent from state sources.


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