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Schools Saw Largest Hike in Per-Pupil Spending in 11 Years

The year-over-year increase in per-pupil spending in U.S. K-12 schools, by 2019, was at its highest in more than a decade, prior to recent investments from federal sources to meet the challenges of remote learning.

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A graphic from the U.S. Census shows a snapshot of per-pupil spending in 2019.
While a recent spate of federal funding announcements added billions in revenue to public schools for modernization, E-rate and other expenses, it only continued an upward trajectory of funding for K-12 schools. The 2019 fiscal year, prior to the pandemic, had marked the largest increase in per-pupil spending in 11 years, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bureau this week released data tables from its Annual Survey of School System Finances, noting that average per-pupil spending for public school students in grades pre-K through 12 increased to $13,187 during the 2019 fiscal year, up 5 percent from 2018.

In 2019, the Census said, public elementary and secondary schools received a total of $751.7 billion from all revenue sources, representing a 4.5 percent increase from $719 billion in 2018. State governments contributed the greatest share of this funding at more than 46 percent, or $350.9 billion.

The report said New York ($25,139), the District of Columbia ($22,406), Connecticut ($21,310), New Jersey ($20,512) and Vermont ($20,315) spent the most per pupil in 2019. Districts in Alaska (15.3 percent), Mississippi (14 percent), South Dakota (13.7 percent), New Mexico (13 percent) and Arizona (12.9 percent) received the highest proportion of their revenues from federal sources, while public school systems in New Jersey (4.1 percent), Connecticut (4.3 percent), Massachusetts (4.3 percent), New York (4.8 percent) and New Hampshire (5 percent) received the lowest shares of federal education funding.

Education policy experts project that the pandemic could mark another unprecedented period for school spending, noting a dramatic increase in local, state and federal funding devoted specifically to ed tech used for virtual learning during school closures. According to data from the research firm the Learning Counsel, K-12 districts in the U.S. spent $35.8 billion in 2020 on hardware, software, curriculum resources and networks, representing more than a 25 percent increase over 2019.

The Census said a preliminary version of its fiscal year 2020 data report will be released this fall. For more information, visit