Revenues and expenditures per pupil on elementary and secondary education increased in school year 2015–16 (fiscal year [FY] 2016), continuing a recent upward trend in the amount of money spent on public preK–12 education. This is the third consecutive year that per pupil revenues and expenditures have increased, reversing three consecutive years of declines in spending between FY 10 and FY 13 after adjusting for inflation. The findings come from the recently released Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2015–16 (Fiscal Year 2016).
The national median of total revenues across all school districts was $12,953 per pupil in FY 16, reflecting an increase of 3.2 percent from FY 15, after adjusting for inflation. This increase in revenues per pupil follows an increase of 2.0 percent for FY 15 and 1.6 percent for FY 14. These increases in revenues per pupil between FY 14 and FY 16 contrast with the decreases from FY 10 to FY 13. The national median of current expenditures per pupil was $10,881 in FY 16, reflecting an increase of 2.4 percent from FY 15. Current expenditures per pupil also increased in FY 15 (1.7 percent) and FY 14 (1.0 percent). These increases in median revenues and current expenditures per pupil between FY 14 and FY 16 represent a full recovery in education spending following the decreases from FY 10 to FY 13.
The school district finance data can help us understand differences in funding levels for various types of districts. For example, median current expenditures per pupil in independent charter school districts were lower than in noncharter and mixed charter/noncharter school districts in 21 out of the 25 states that were able to report finance data for independent charter school districts. Three of the 4 states where median current expenditures were higher for independent charter school districts had policies that affected charter school spending. The new School District Finance Survey (F-33) data offer researchers extensive opportunities to investigate local patterns of revenues and expenditures and how they relate to conditions for other districts across the country.
By Stephen Q. Cornman, NCES; Malia Howell, Stephen Wheeler, and Osei Ampadu, U.S. Census Bureau; and Lei Zhou, Activate Research
 In order to compare from one year to the next, revenues are converted to constant dollars, which adjusts figures for inflation. Inflation adjustments use the Consumer Price Index (CPI) published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. For comparability to fiscal education data, NCES adjusts the CPI from a calendar year basis to a school fiscal year basis (July through June). See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 106.70, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d16/tables/dt16_106.70.asp.
Charter school enrollment has grown significantly over time. Between fall 2000 and fall 2015, overall public charter school enrollment increased from 0.4 million to 2.8 million students, and the percentage of public school students who attended charter schools increased from 1 to 6 percent. The number of charter schools also increased during this period, from 1,990 to 6,860.
The characteristics of charter schools and traditional public schools differ in some ways. A higher percentage of charter schools are located in cities and a lower percentage are located in rural areas as compared to traditional public schools.
There are also some differences in the characteristics of students who attend charter schools and traditional public schools. A higher percentage of charter schools had higher percentages of minority students enrolled. In school year 2015–16, more than half of the students were White in 58 percent of traditional public schools. In comparison, 34 percent of charter schools had more than 50 percent White enrollment. In 9 percent of traditional public schools more than half of students were Black compared to 23 percent for charter schools. In 16 percent of traditional public schools, more than half of students were Hispanic compared to 25 percent for charter schools.
High-poverty schools are those in which more than 75 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) under the National School Lunch Program. In the 2015–16 school year, 24 percent of traditional public schools were high-poverty compared with 35 percent of public charter schools. In contrast, low-poverty schools–in which less than 25 percent of students qualify for FRPL–accounted for 16 percent of traditional public schools and 21 percent of public charter schools.
Access indicators from the Condition of Education on the characteristics of traditional public schools and public charter schools as well as charter school enrollment for more data!
By Lauren Musu