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Expenditures

Question:
How much money does the United States spend on public elementary and secondary schools?

Response:

Total expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools in the United States in 2013–14 amounted to $634 billion, or $12,509 per public school student enrolled in the fall (in constant 2015–16 dollars). Total expenditures included $11,222 per student in current expenditures, which includes salaries, employee benefits, purchased services, and supplies. Total expenditures also included $939 per student in capital outlay (expenditures for property and for buildings and alterations completed by school district staff or contractors) and $348 for interest on school debt.

Current expenditures per student enrolled in the fall in public elementary and secondary schools were 5 percent higher in 2013–14 than in 2003–04 ($11,222 and $10,641 respectively, both in constant 2015–16 dollars). Current expenditures per student peaked in 2008–09 at $11,699 and then decreased each year until 2012–13. Current expenditures per pupil then increased 1 percent from 2012–13 to 2013–14 ($11,093 and $11,222, respectively). Interest payments on school debt per student were 1 percent higher in 2013–14 than in 2003–04 in constant 2015–16 dollars. Interest payments increased from $345 in 2003–04 to $391 in 2010–11, before declining to $348 in 2013–14. Capital outlay expenditures per student in 2013–14 ($939) were 30 percent lower than in 2003–04 ($1,338). Capital outlay expenditures per student increased 13 percent from 2003–04 to 2007–08 ($1,517) before declining 38 percent from 2007–08 to 2013–14.


Current expenditures, interest payments, and capital outlays per student in fall enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by type of expenditure: 2003–04 through 2013–14

The data in this figure is described in the surrounding text.

NOTE: "Current expenditures", “Capital outlay,” and “Interest on school debt” are subcategories of total expenditures. “Current expenditures” include instruction, support services, food services, and enterprise operations (expenditures for operations funded by sales of products and services). “Capital outlay” includes expenditures for property and for buildings and alterations completed by school district staff or contractors. Expenditures are reported in constant 2015–16 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). The Condition of Education 2017 (NCES 2017-144), Public School Expenditures.


Current expenditures for education can be expressed in terms of the percentage of funds going toward salaries, benefits, purchased services, or supplies. On a national basis in 2013–14, approximately 80 percent of current expenditures were for salaries and benefits for staff, compared to 81 percent in 2003–04. There were, however, shifts within the distribution of salaries and benefits for staff, as the proportion of current expenditures for staff salaries decreased from 63 percent in 2003–04 to 58 percent in 2013–14, and the proportion for staff benefits increased from 18 to 22 percent during this period. Approximately 11 percent of current expenditures were for purchased services, which include a wide variety of items, such as contracts for food, transportation, and janitorial services, and for professional development for teachers. The percentage of expenditure distribution going toward purchased services shifted only slightly from 2003–04 to 2013–14, increasing from 9 to 11 percent. Eight percent of school expenditures in 2013–14 were for supplies, ranging from books to heating oil. The percentage of current expenditures for supplies changed less than 1 percentage point from 2003–04 to 2013–14.

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