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School Districts' Per-Pupil Spending Declines for Second Straight Year

School districts' per-pupil spending dropped by 2.5 percent to $9,937 in fiscal year 2012, the second straight fiscal year of decline in the national median per-pupil spending, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics released on Thursday.

Local school district revenues per pupil were also down 2.9 percent in fiscal year 2012 from fiscal year 2011, according to the data.

And per-pupil spending varied greatly among the country's 100 largest school districts, with New York City, for example, spending $20,226 per pupil, and the Alpine school district in Utah spending $5,412 per-pupil.

The data on local districts' expenditures and revenues for the fiscal year 2012 come from the federal school district finance survey.

The districts with the lowest per-pupil spending:

  • Jordan school district in Utah—$5,521
  • Davis County school district in Utah—$5,901
  • Capistrano Unified in Orange County, Calif.—$7,241

School districts reported $603.5 billion in revenues in fiscal year 2012, with nearly 45 percent of those monies coming from local government sources, 45.1 percent from the state and 10 percent from the federal government, according to the data.

States reported $521.5 billion in current expenditures by local school districts, of which $339.8 billion (or 65.2 percent) was spent on instruction and instruction-related areas; $159.8 billion (or 30.6 percent) on support services; and $21.9 billion (or 4.2 percent) on other functions, according to the report.

Nearly 66 percent of the budgeted amount for instruction went toward salaries and wages, according to the report; benefits made up 24 percent.

Twenty-two states provided data on revenues and spending for pupils in independent charter school districts.

The report found that per-pupil expenditures in independent charter school districts were at least 10 percent below that of regular public schools in nine of the 22 states that provided data for both regular school districts and independent charter districts.  

In Connecticut, for example, the median per-pupil expenditure for regular public schools was $15,931, while it was  $11,438 for charter school districts in fiscal year 2012, according to the report. The difference was $2,359 more per-pupil in regular public schools in Delaware.

The median per-pupil expenditure in independent charter school districts was higher in two of the 22 states.

In Missouri, for example, the median per-pupil expenditure for independent charter school districts was $12,699,  while it was $8,826 for non charter school districts, according to the report.

The data contain a breakdown on district per-pupil spending by various categories, including salary and wages and benefits, and the per-pupil revenues from various sources, including federal, state and local funding. You can dig into the data here. An accompanying report looks at national and state-level spending on elementary and secondary education. 

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