A look at per student spending, by state.
The United States ranks third in per pupil spending, trailing behind Switzerland and Norway. However, do you know exactly how we determine how to spend our educational dollars?
The United States Constitution places the responsibility of K-12 funding solely in the hands of individual states. However, the federal government supplements state spending. In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was enacted and authorizes grants to supplement educational spending. Elementary and secondary programs are helped with grants for the following purposes: resources for school libraries, professional development for teachers, programs for children of low-income families, just to name a few. Overall, funding for education is drawn from three primary sources: federal, state, and local governments, with individual states deciding how to distribute the monies.
Much attention has been given to the No Child Left Behind Act; however, the concept behind the program is not necessarily a new one. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act was reauthorized in 2001 and named the No Child Left Behind Act. The purpose of this act is to raise achievement levels of children in the school systems. Unfortunately, even with the additional money spent for this program, the United States still trails behind Asian countries when it comes to academic achievement.
Most federal funds are sent directly to states and local school districts. When schools receive federal funds, they are mandated to use them for defined purposes. For instance, there are Child Nutrition Grants that provide for school lunches, school breakfasts, and milk, just to name a few. There are also Language Instruction Grants, School Health Programs Grants, and Special Education Grants.
In the 2004-05 school year, the government spent more taxpayer money on education than on national defense. According to a brochure published by the U.S. Department of Education Budget Service and the National Center for Education Statistics, taxpayer investment in education was proposed to be $536 billion that year. At the time of publication, it was estimated that taxpayers would spend another $373 billion for higher education. Over the course of a student’s K-12 education, approximately $111,000 will be spent in elementary and secondary schools combined. The most startling statistic is that even though the United States is one of the world leaders in educational investment, U.S. children lag behind in performance when compared to children in countries who spend far less.
California pays teachers—on average—higher salaries. California is the leader in the nation for average teacher salaries, paying their K-12 faculty an average of $64,424. South Dakota is at the bottom of the list, noting average teacher yearly pay as $36,374.
It’s evident that the United States provides a solid monetary foundation from which to educate elementary and secondary students. The biggest problem we face, however, is how we can match our children’s academic achievements to the amount of money we spend to educate each individual student.
School Funding Source Data: U.S. Department of Education, 10 Facts About K-12 Education Funding, Washington, D.C., 2005