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How States Are Spending Money in Education

The District of Columbia spends the most per student nationwide.

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Per-student spending decreased in most states between 2011 and 2012.

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The amount of money states spend on each student for instruction and instruction-related services decreased nearly 3 percent nationwide between the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years, new data from the Department of Education show. And in many states with larger student populations, per-student spending was below the national average. 

Nationwide, states spent an average of $10,667 per student in the 2011-12 school year – a 2.8 percent drop from the $10,975 they spent in 2010-11, according to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics released Thursday. In some states – such as Florida, Texas and Wisconsin – the decrease was more than 8 percent. Just seven states (Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, New Jersey, North Dakota and Vermont) increased per-student spending. The increases ranged from 0.2 percent in North Dakota to 10 percent in Vermont. 

[READ: Grade F: Many States Trail in College Funding and Tuition]

Per-pupil spending includes funds used for direct instruction, as well as student support services such as social work, guidance, health and psychological services, speech pathology and audiology. Per-student dollars also flow to general support services such as instructional staff support, general and school administration, operations and maintenance costs and student transportation. 

Overall, spending for instruction decreased by 3.3 percent from 2011 to 2012, and total support services decreased by 2.5 percent.

Per-student spending ranged from a low of $6,441 in Utah to a high of $19,847 in the District of Columbia. States with large and medium student populations of more than 400,000 generally spent less per student than states with smaller student populations under 400,000 students. States with lower per-student spending generally spent slightly more on capital outlay expenses for property and construction.

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Of the 15 states with more than 1 million students (categorized as "large"), just five spent more than the national average per student. Texas, for example, has the second-highest student population (just over 5 million), but its per-student spending is $8,213, below the national average of $10,667. On the other hand, of the 15 states and the District of Columbia with fewer than 400,000 students (categorized as "small"), 12 spent more than average per student. The District of Columbia has the smallest student population (73,911) but spends the most per student nationwide, at $19,847.

The map below shows how much each state spent per student in 2011-12. Hovering over a state will show the per-student spending and the student population.