NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

National Spending for Public Schools Increases for Second Consecutive Year in School Year 2014-15

By Stephen Q. Cornman and Lauren Musu-Gillette, NCES; Lei Zhou, Activate Research; and Malia Howell, U.S. Census Bureau

Nationally, spending on elementary and secondary education increased in school year 2014–15 (Fiscal Year 2015). This is the second consecutive year spending has increased, reversing a decline in spending for the prior four years after adjusting for inflation. These findings come from a recently released report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The First Look report, Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2014–15 (Fiscal Year 2015) is based on data from the National Public Education Finance Survey (NPEFS), a component of the Common Core of Data (CCD).

The amount spent per student for the day-to-day operation of public elementary and secondary schools rose to $11,454 in Fiscal Year (FY) 15.[1] Current expenditures per student increased by 2.8 percent between FY 14 and 15, following an increase of 1.2 percent from the prior year, after adjusting for inflation.[2]  Despite these recent increases, spending per student decreased each year from FY 09 to FY 13 and the FY 15 amount spent per student was lower than the amounts spent in FY 08, FY 09, and FY 10.


NOTE: Spending is reported in constant FY 15 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "National Public Education Financial Survey," fiscal years 2006 through 2015.


At the state level, spending on current expenditures per student ranged from a low of $6,751 in Utah to a high of $20,744 in New York. In addition to New York, current expenditures per student were at least 40 percent higher than the national average in the following states and jurisdictions:

  • District of Columbia ($20,610);
  • Alaska ($20,191);
  • Connecticut ($19,020);
  • New Jersey ($18,838);
  • Vermont ($18,769);
  • Massachusetts ($16,566);
  • and Wyoming ($16,047).

Current expenditures per student for public elementary and secondary education, by state: Fiscal year 2015 

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "National Public Education Financial Survey," fiscal year 2015.


Between FY 14 and FY 15, current expenditures per student increased by 3 percent or more in 12 states, and by 1 to less than 3 percent in 23 states. Increases in current expenditures per student from FY 14 to FY 15 were highest in Alaska (8.6 percent), California (7.3 percent), Texas (4.8 percent), Illinois (4.7 percent), and Maine (4.6 percent).


NOTE: Spending is reported in constant FY 15 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "National Public Education Financial Survey," fiscal years 2013 through 2015. 


The recently released report also presents national and state data on public school funding by source.[3] Total funding increased by 3.3 percent (from $628.2 to $648.6 billion) from FY 14 to FY 15, which primarily reflected funding increases at the local and state levels. Local funding increased by 3.3 percent (from $282.5 to $292.0 billion), state funding increased by 3.7 percent (from $290.7 to $301.6 billion), and federal funding remained about level with an increase of 0.2 percent (from $54.9 to $55.0 billion).


SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "National Public Education Financial Survey," fiscal years 2006 through 2015. 


The percentage of total funding from federal sources accounted for approximately 9 percent of total funding in both FY 06 and FY 15; however, there were notable fluctuations during this period. The federal percentage increased from 8.2 percent of funding in FY 08 to 12.5 percent of funding in FY 11. In part, this increase reflects the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As the funds from the program were spent, the federal percentage decreased from 10.2 percent of total funding in FY 12 to 8.5 percent in FY 15.

Local sources accounted for 45.0 percent of total funding in FY 15, and have been relatively stable over the past 10 years. The percentage of total funding from state sources decreased from a high of 48.3 percent in FY 08 to 43.4 percent in FY 10, and has since increased to 46.5 percent in FY 15.


[1] Spending refers to current expenditures. Current expenditures are comprised of expenditures for the day-to-day operation of schools and school districts for public elementary and secondary education, including expenditures for staff salaries and benefits, supplies, and purchased services. Current expenditures include instruction, instruction-related, support services (e.g., social work, health, and psychological services), and other elementary/secondary current expenditures, but exclude expenditures on capital outlay, other programs, and interest on long-term debt. 

[2] In order to compare spending from one year to the next, expenditures are converted to constant dollars, which adjusts figures for inflation.

[3] Funding refers to revenues. Revenues are comprised of all funds received from external sources, net of refunds, and correcting transactions. Noncash transactions, such as receipt of services, commodities, or other receipts in kind are excluded, as are funds received from the issuance of debt, liquidation of investments, and nonroutine sale of property.