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School Spending Is Up, and Other Key Takeaways From Latest Federal Data

Despite a growing chorus of teachers and public school advocates complaining about America's spending on its public schools, spending actually increased 2.9 percent between fiscal year 2015 and 2016, according to a report released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics.  

America collected $678.4 billion for its public schools in the 2016 fiscal year and spent $596.1 billion. 

But how that money is divvied up between districts and schools across the country varies dramatically. 

The District of Columbia spent $27,067 per pupil in fiscal 2016 and New York spent $24,717, for example, while Idaho spent $8,258 and Utah spent $8,408 in 2016. The nation on average spends $11,841 per student.

Local revenue increased by 3.7 percent, state revenue increased by 4.9 percent, and federal revenue increased by 1.1 percent in that same fiscal year.

Across the country, teachers and advocates in several states have complained about budget cuts made by district officials. Many of those cuts, school finance experts and state officials have said, are due to increased pension costs, stagnated revenue projections, and dramatic demographic shifts. 

Many governors promised on the campaign trail this year to boost education spending during next year's legislative session. 

Other key takeaways from the report:

  • California saw the largest increase in per pupil revenue, with an $11.4 billion increase from the prior year.
  • Alaska, which spent $17,510 in the 2016 fiscal year saw the largest decrease in per pupil revenue after it slashed its contribution to its Teacher Retirement System from 58 percent to 16 percent.
  • Alabama spent 7 percent of its budget on food service, the highest in the nation.
  • West Virginia spent 7 percent of its budget on transportation, the highest in the nation. 

Education Week Research Associate Alex Harwin contributed to this report.  

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