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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 201415 amounted to $668 billion, or $13,119 per public school student enrolled in the fall (in constant 201617 dollars).1 Total expenditures included $11,734 per student in current expenditures, which includes salaries, employee benefits, purchased services, tuition, and supplies. Total expenditures also included $1,029 per student in capital outlay (expenditures for property and for buildings and alterations completed by school district staff or contractors) and $356 for interest on school debt.

Current expenditures per student enrolled in the fall in public elementary and secondary schools were 15 percent higher in 201415 than in 200001 ($11,734 vs. $10,228, both in constant 201617 dollars). Current expenditures per student increased between 200001 and 200809, peaking at $11,914 in 200809, and fluctuated between 200809 and 201415, reaching $11,734 in 201415.

Interest payments on school debt per student were 19 percent higher in 201415 than in 200001. Interest payments per student increased from $298 in 200001 to $398 in 201011, before declining to $356 in 201415 (all amounts in constant 201617 dollars). Capital outlay expenditures per student in 201415 ($1,029) were 24 percent lower than in 200001 ($1,353). Capital outlay expenditures per student were 17 percent lower in 201011 ($1,129) than in 200001 and a further 9 percent lower in 201415 than in 201011.


Current expenditures, interest payments, and capital outlays per student in fall enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by type of expenditure: Selected years, 200001 through 201415

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 201617 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Some data have been revised from previous figures. Excludes expenditures for state education agencies.


Current expenditures for education can be expressed in terms of the percentage of funds going toward salaries, benefits, purchased services, tuition, or supplies. On a national basis in 201415, approximately 80 percent of current expenditures were for salaries and benefits for staff, compared with 81 percent in 200001. There were, however, shifts within the distribution of salaries and benefits for staff, as the proportion of current expenditures for staff salaries decreased from 64 percent in 200001 to 57 percent in 201415, and the proportion of current expenditures for staff benefits increased from 17 to 23 percent during this period. Approximately 11 percent of current expenditures in 201415 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 the expenditure distribution going toward purchased services shifted only slightly from 200001 to 201415, increasing from 9 to 11 percent. Eight percent of school expenditures in 201415 were for supplies, ranging from books to heating oil. The percentage of current expenditures for supplies decreased less than 1 percentage point from 200001 to 201415.

1 Expenditures in this Fact are adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, or CPI. For this Fact, the CPI is adjusted to a school-year basis. The CPI is prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). The Condition of Education 2018 (NCES 2018-144), Public School Expenditures.

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