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Where's the Money? Key Takeaways From New Census School Funding Data

Nearly every state boosted spending for schools in 2015, according to new Census Bureau data released this week. But there remain big gaps in individual states' investments, which could predict how well they will be able to weather changes in federal education funding under the Trump administration, as well as the new federal requirement that all schools report per-pupil spending to the public.

As part of an annual data report on school finance, the Census includes all traditional public schools covering pre-K-12 and all charter schools whose charters are held by government bodies, such as a district, county, or state. However, charter schools run by private or nonprofit groups would not be included in the data.

School spending per-pupil has more than doubled since 1992, and it peaked at more than $11,000 per student in fiscal 2015—at 3.5 percent, that's the largest increase since 2008: 

census school spending longitudinal line.JPG

States still made up the bulk of that funding, at more than 47 percent. But states showed big gaps in how much they invested in education. For example, Texas received nearly twice as much in federal funding as New York, but it provided less in state and local funding. Wealthier or more populous states didn't always have higher education spending rates than poorer or rural states, particularly after taking into account state income levels:

Census school spending map 2015.JPG

Interestingly, Alaska, the state that showed the biggest gain in per-pupil spending back in fiscal 2015—its $20,172 per-student spending level was a 9.5 percent increase from fiscal 2014—would also be the state to face the biggest percentage cut to its federal Title I funding, or 4.5 percent, under President Donald Trump's proposed fiscal 2018 budget.

I'll be digging into more on how school spending has changed next week. 

Charts Source: U.S. Census Bureau.


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