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Status of Education in Rural America
NCES 2007-040
June 2007

3.2. Public school expenditures


In rural areas, adjusted current public school expenditures per student were higher in 2003–04 than in cities, suburbs, and towns. Public schools had higher adjusted current expenditures per student in high-poverty rural school districts than in middle-poverty and middle high-poverty rural school districts.

Expenditures for public schools are typically discussed as either current expenditures for regular schools programs, which are instruction, administrative, and operation and maintenance expenditures, or else as total expenditures, which include current expenditures plus capital outlay and interest on school debt. In 2003–04, current expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools amounted to $8,100 per student and total expenditures amounted to $9,800 per student (table 3.2).

In order to make an appropriate comparison across locales, this indicator examines differences in current expenditures per student, with adjustments to reflect geographic cost differences.1 Adjusted current expenditures per student for public schools in rural areas ($8,400) were higher than in cities ($8,100) and suburban areas ($7,900).

Rural public schools in high-poverty school districts had lower adjusted current expenditures per student ($8,400) than rural schools located in low-poverty ($9,100) or middle-low poverty ($8,500) districts (figure 3.2).2 However, the adjusted current expenditures per student for rural schools located in high-poverty districts were greater than the adjusted current expenditures for rural schools located in middle high-poverty school districts ($8,100) and middle-poverty districts ($8,200). A similar pattern was seen in rural fringe areas, although not in distant and remote rural areas.

In contrast, city schools located in high-poverty school districts had higher adjusted current expenditures per student than low-poverty, middle low-poverty, middle-poverty, and middle high-poverty school districts.

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1 NCES's Comparable Wage Index (CWI) was used to adjust for geographic cost differences. For more details on the CWI, see A Comparable Wage Approach to Geographic Cost Adjustment (NCES 2006-321). These cost adjustments cannot be applied to total expenditures.
2 District poverty was determined by ranking school districts by the percentage of enrolled children ages 5-17 from families with an income below the poverty threshold, and then dividing these districts into five categories with equal proportions of the total enrollment. The low-poverty district category consists of the 20 percent of students nationally in districts with the lowest percentages of poor school-age children. Conversely, the high-poverty district category consists of the 20 percent of students nationally in districts with the highest percentages of poor school-age children. For a comparison of poverty definitions see appendix B.

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