This publication provides basic descriptive information about the 100 largest school districts (ranked by student membership) in the United States, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Defense schools, and outlying areas (American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands). For the sake of simplicity, when discussing characteristics, the term "nation" (or "United States") is used to refer to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Defense schools, and outlying areas. This is different from most NCES reports, which only include the 50 states and the District of Columbia in U.S. totals.
Almost one in every four public school students in this nation is served by one of these 100 districts (table A). They are distinguished from smaller districts by characteristics in addition to sheer size, such as average and median school size, pupil/teacher ratios, number of high school graduates, number of pupils receiving special education services, and minority enrollment as a proportion of total enrollment.
Information about the characteristics cited above is found in 16 "basic tables". For the purpose of establishing a meaningful context for the information on the 100 largest districts, four text tables provide national and 100 largest school district data and precede the basic tables. Following the basic tables, appendix A lists the 500 largest school districts with some identifying information and basic statistical data. Appendix B is an alphabetical list of the 500 districts and their rank by size. Appendix C provides data for the 1989-90 school year. Appendix D provides a count of the number of largest districts represented by state. In all basic tables and appendices, with the exception of appendices B and D, districts are presented by decreasing order of size.
In the 1999-2000 school year, there were 16,850 public school districts, 94,090 schools, and 47.7 million students in public education in the United States. There were just under 3.0 million full-time-equivalent teachers in the 1999-2000 school year and more than 2.5 million high school completers in the 1998-99 school year. The 100 largest school districts make up less than 1 percent of all public school districts but serve 23 percent of the total number of public elementary and secondary school students (table A). The 100 largest school districts represent 17 percent of schools and employ 21 percent of all teachers. The 500 largest districts make up 3 percent of all school districts, 32 percent of schools, and serve 20.4 million students, or 43 percent of the total public elementary and secondary school student population in the United States (table A).
All of the 100 largest school districts have at least 45,000 students, and 26 of these school districts have over 100,000 students. The largest school district is the New York City Public Schools, with 1,075,710 students enrolled in 1,207 schools. As a comparison, New York City Public Schools has more students than the 6th- through 10th-largest school districts added together. The second largest school district is Los Angeles Unified, with 710,007 students in 655 schools (table 1). The enrollment in New York City and Los Angeles Unified school districts each have more students than twenty-seven individual states, the District of Columbia, the five outlying areas, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Department of Defense schools .
of the 100 largest districts reported staff by type for the 1999-2000
school year. At the national level, 52 percent of staff were teachers1
compared to 53 percent among the 100 largest districts. Twenty of the
98 districts that reported staff by type had 1 percent or more of their
staff assigned to district administration (table
The District of Columbia, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico each have only one school district for the entire jurisdiction, and each is represented among the 100 largest school districts (table 1). There are 33 states and jurisdictions that have at least one of the 100 largest school districts. Two states, Florida and Texas, each have 14 districts among the 100 largest, California has 11. Several other states have more than one district represented in the 100 largest: Georgia has 6; Maryland has 5; Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia each have 4; Ohio has 3; and Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, and New York each have 2. The following states each have one school district among the 100 largest: Alabama, Alaska, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin (appendix D).
As expected, these 100 largest districts tend to be in cities and counties with large populations, with administrative offices typically located in large cities and their environs. Many of the districts are in states where the school districts have the same boundaries as counties. Over 70 percent of these districts are located in coastal and gulf coast states.
By definition, the 100 largest school districts are large, and when compared to the membership distribution of all school districts, they are considerably larger than most. In the 1999-2000 school year, 71 percent of all regular school districts had fewer than 2,500 students while all of the 100 largest school districts had at least 45,000 students (tables B and 1). Although 14 percent of regular school districts had 5,000 or more students, 68 percent of students (or 2 out of 3) were served by these districts (table B).
The average school district in the United States has 5.6 schools compared to the 100 largest school districts, which average 155.6 schools per district (derived from table A). Two of the largest school districts, New York City Public Schools and the Puerto Rico Department of Education, each have over 1,200 schools (table 1). The 100 largest school districts, on average, serve considerably more students (109,625 compared to 2,831) and employ more teachers (6,274 compared to 176) per district than the average school district in the nation (derived from table A).
The 100 largest school districts have more students per school than the average school district, 704 compared to 507 (table A). In fact, 11 of the 100 largest school districts have an average regular school size of over 1,000 students (table 4). In addition to larger school sizes, the 100 largest school districts also have a higher mean pupil/teacher ratio, 17.5 to 1 compared to 16.1 to 1 for the average school district (table A). Across the 100 largest districts, Jefferson County, Kentucky, has the largest median pupil/teacher ratio at 23.2 to 1 and St. Paul, Minnesota, has the smallest at 11.9 to 1 (table 7).
The number of high school completers (diploma recipients and other high school completers) as a percentage of all students is lower in the 100 largest school districts than in the average school district: 4.5 percent of students are graduates in the 100 largest school districts compared to 5.4 percent for the average school district (table A).
Ninety of the 100 largest school districts reported data for Title I eligible schools and programs for the 1999-2000 school year. The percentage of Title I eligible schools in the 90 districts varied widely, from 3.3 percent in De Kalb County School District, Georgia, to 100 percent in the Philadelphia City School District, Pennsylvania (table 13).
Among the 52 of the 100 largest school districts that either reported charter school data or were located in states that did not have charter schools in the 1999-2000 school year, the largest number of charter schools were in Puerto Rico (119), Los Angeles Unified (33), and the District of Columbia (27) (table 14).
The 100 largest school districts are not homogeneous, and certain student characteristics, such as race/ethnicity, poverty level, and disability status, vary across the districts.
The 100 largest districts, with 23 percent of the nation's public school students, serve 40 percent of the 18.5 million minority public school students. In the 100 largest school districts, 68 percent of students are minority students compared to 40 percent of students nationally (table C). In fact, one-third (33) of the 96 districts where minority membership was available have over 75 percent minority students. Eight of the 10 largest school districts have over 75 percent minority student membership (table 8).
Even with the relatively high minority membership in the 100 largest school districts, 40 of the 96 districts report 50 percent or more of their students as White, non-Hispanic (table 9). Of these 40 districts, 9 report minority representation of less than 25 percent of their student body (table 8). In 18 of the 100 largest districts, half or more of the membership is Black, non-Hispanic. Twelve districts report that the majority of students are Hispanic; 3 of these are among the 5 largest districts. In Hawaii, which is one district, and the San Francisco Unified, California, the majority of the students are Asian/Pacific Islanders (table 9).
For the 1998-99 school year, 46 of the 100 largest school districts were in states that could report dropouts using the NCES definition of dropouts. The 9th- through 12th- grade dropout rate in those 50 districts ranged from 1 to 24 percent. Twenty-five of the districts had a 9th- through 12th- grade dropout rate between 3 and 10 percent (table 16).
The 100 largest school districts have a disproportionate percentage of students eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program relative to all public school districts. Among schools that reported free and reduced-price lunch eligibility, 54 percent of students in the 100 largest school districts are eligible, compared to 39 percent of students in all districts (table C). Among the 92 of the 100 largest school districts that reported data on free lunch, 46 districts report over 50 percent of their students eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program (table 9).
Twelve percent of students in the 100 largest school districts have individualized education programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities. In the largest school district, New York City Public Schools, 14 percent, or 146,949 students, are reported to have IEPs (table 3). Less than 3 percent of schools in the 100 largest school districts are special education schools (table 2).
In the 1997-98 school year (FY 1998), $329 billion were collected for public elementary and secondary education in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and outlying areas; 22 percent ($74 billion) of this revenue went to the 100 largest school districts. Of the $74 billion in revenue to the 100 largest school districts, a little less than one-third ($22 billion) was received by the 5 largest school districts (New York City Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified, Puerto Rico Department of Education, City of Chicago School District, and Dade County School District) (table 10). The revenues from the federal government received by 99 of the 100 largest school districts comprised between 2 and 17 percent of all revenues to the district, the exception being the Puerto Rico Department of Education (27 percent) (table 11).
The 100 largest school districts spent $64 billion (22 percent) of the $288 billion in current expenditures spent on the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and outlying areas in 1997-98. The two largest school districts, New York City Public Schools and Los Angeles Unified, spent one out of every five dollars expended by the 100 largest school districts. All but 2 of the 100 largest school districts devoted 50 percent or more of their current expenditures to instruction (Jefferson County, Colorado, spent 49.9 percent, while the District of Columbia spent 43.4 percent). Of the 100 largest school districts, New York City Public Schools spent the greatest proportion, 72 percent, on instruction.
The current expenditures per pupil were $6,189 for all districts in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, slightly higher than the $5,949 in the 100 largest school districts. Of the 100 largest school districts, 14 districts spent more than $7,000 per pupil (with Boston School District, Massachusetts, spending the most at $10,293 per pupil) (table 10). (See the Methodology section for definitions of specific revenues and expenditures).
While there has been a lot of movement within the 100 largest school districts over time, between the 1989-90 and 1999-2000 school years, the 100 largest districts remained very similar. Only 10 of the 100 largest districts in the 1999-2000 school year were not in the 100 largest in the 1989-90 school year. Clark County School District, Nevada, was the only district to move into the 10 largest districts between these years (it moved from a rank of 15 in 1989-90 to 6 in 1999-2000) (table 1 and appendix C). Clark County includes the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which was the fastest growing metropolitan area in the country between 1990 and 1998.
The number of students in the 100 largest school districts increased by 16 percent between 1989-90 and 1999-2000, the number of teachers increased by 23 percent, and the number of schools increased by 10 percent. However, while the numbers of students, teachers, and schools in the 100 largest school districts have increased between these years, the proportion of the national total these numbers comprised was essentially unchanged. For example, the number of students in the 100 largest school districts went from 22.8 percent of all districts in 1989-90 to 23.0 percent in 1999-2000 (table D).