Public Education Costs per Pupil by State Rankings

The United States  spent an average of $10,615 per pupil educating its young people in the nation’s elementary-secondary school systems in 2010. According to the report released by the U.S. Census Bureau, that translates into a small (1.1 percent) increase in per-pupil spending over 2009.

Where do schools get their money?

Schools are financed from three main sources: local, state and federal funds. For the 2009-2010 school year, total school revenues were 593.7 billion dollars. Broken down by revenue sources, here is how that total was reached:

  • Local Revenues: $261.4 billion (44 percent of total revenues)
  • State Revenues: $258.3 billion (43.5 percent of total revenues)
  • Federal Revenues: $74 billion (12.5 percent of total revenues)

Where are schools spending their money?

Of the $602.6 billion in budget spending by U.S. schools in the 2009-2010 school year, a relatively small amount, $19.3 billion, was spent on interest on debt and payments to other governments. Additionally, less than 10 percent ($56.1 billion) was spent on construction, land, existing structures and equipment. By far the largest amount (88.5 percent) was spent on a broad category called “current spending.” The $527.2 billion that falls into this category is divided as follows:

  • $317.8 billion: Instruction
  • $48.7 billion: Operation and maintenance
  • $28.6 billion: Pupil support services
  • $27.8 billion: School administration
  • $27.1 billion: Other current spending
  • $24.8 billion: Instructional staff support services
  • $22.1 billion: Pupil transportation
  • $17.5 billion: Other and non-specified support services
  • $9.6 billion: General administration.

The U.S. Census Bureau has released a bubble chart to illustrate these total income and expense areas.

Costs per student by State

Public Education by state rankings show that the District of Columbia spent the most per pupil at $18,687. The next top five are New York ($18,618), New Jersey ($16,841), Alaska ($15,783), Vermont ($15,274) and Wyoming ($15,169).

The states spending the least on a per-pupil basis are Oklahoma ($7,896), Arizona ($7,848), Idaho ($7,106) and Utah ($6,064).

Other notes of interest:

  • All nine states in the Northeast Region made the top 15 of per-pupil student spending.
  • Of 16 states with the lowest spending, 15 were in the South Region or the West Region.
  • Public school systems in North Dakota, Mississippi and New Mexico got more of their funding from the Federal Government.

Below is a complete list of public education by state rankings on a per-pupil spending basis. States are listed alphabetically:

Alabama: $8,881
Alaska: $15,783
Arizona: $7,848
Arkansas: $9,143
California: $9,375
Colorado: $8,853
Connecticut: $14,906
Delaware: $12,383
District of Columbia: $18,667
Florida: $8,741
Georgia: $9,394
Hawaii: $11,754
Idaho: $7,106
Illinois: $11,634
Indiana: $9,611
Iowa: $9,763
Kansas: $9,715
Kentucky: $8,948
Louisiana: $10,638
Maine: $12,259
Maryland: $13,738
Massachusetts: $14,350
Michigan: $10,644
Minnesota: $10,685
Mississippi: $8,119
Missouri: $9,634
Montana: $10,497
Nebraska: $10,734
Nevada: $8,483
New Hampshire: $12, 383
New Jersey: $16,841
New Mexico: $9,384
New York: $18,618
North Carolina: $8,409
North Dakota: $10,991
Ohio: $11,030
Oklahoma: $7,896
Oregon: $9,624
Pennsylvania: $12,995
Rhode Island: $13,699
South Carolina: $9,143
South Dakota: $8,858
Tennessee: $8,065
Texas: $8,746
Utah: $6,064
Vermont: $15,274
Virginia: $10,597
Washington: $9,452
West Virginia: $11,527
Wisconsin: $11,364
Wyoming: $15,169

Specific budget spending details on a state-by-state basis can be accessed at the U.S. Census Bureau website.


We are devoted to improving both student and teacher achievement, inside and outside the classroom. Our articles help examine the relationship between what to teach (curriculum) and how to teach (instruction). K-12 teachers will find resources that help foster a deeper learning environment and better student engagement.

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