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


Total expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools in the United States amounted to $621 billion in 2011–12, or $12,401 per public school student enrolled in the fall (in constant 2013–14 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index). These expenditures include $11,014 per student in current expenditures for operation of schools; $1,018 for capital outlay (i.e., expenditures for property and for buildings and alterations completed by school district staff or contractors); and $370 for interest on school debt.

From 2000–01 to 2011–12, current expenditures per student enrolled in the fall in public elementary and secondary schools increased by 11 percent (from $9,904 to $11,014 in constant 2013–14 dollars). Current expenditures per student peaked in 2008–09 at $11,537 and have decreased each year since then. The amount for 2011–12 ($11,014) was 3 percent ($318) less than the amount for 2010–11 ($11,332).

Current expenditures per student in fall enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by function of expenditure: 2000–01, 2005–06, 2010–11, and 2011–12

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

NOTE: Instruction, Student support, Instructional staff services, Operation and maintenance, Administration, Transportation, and Food services are subcategories of Current expenditures. Student support include expenditures for guidance, health, attendance, and speech pathology services. Instructional staff services include expenditures for curriculum development, staff training, libraries, and media and computer centers. Administration includes both general administration and school administration. Transportation refers to student transportation. Expenditures are reported in constant 2013–14 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

In addition to being reported by type, expenditures are also reported by function, which describes the activity for which a service or material object is acquired. Per student current expenditures (in constant 2013–14 dollars) increased for most functions between 2000–01 and 2011–12, though expenditures for most functions were lower in 2011–12 than in 2010–11. In 2011–12, instruction—the single largest component of current expenditures—was $6,706 per student, or about 61 percent of current expenditures. Instruction expenditures include salaries and benefits of teachers and teaching assistants as well as costs for instructional materials and instructional services provided under contract. Between 2000–01 and 2011–12, expenditures per student for instruction increased by 10 percent (from $6,093 to $6,706), though they peaked in 2009–10 at $7,059. Expenditures per pupil for instruction for 2011–12 ($6,706) were 3 percent lower than the amount in 2010–11 ($6,932). Expenditures between 2000–01 and 2011–12 for several other major school functions increased more rapidly. However, with the exception of food services, instructional staff services, and transportation services, all function categories peaked within a year of 2009–10. For example, expenditures per student for student support services, such as guidance and health personnel, increased by 25 percent from 2000–01 to 2011–12 (from $492 to $613), but peaked in 2009–10 at $640. Expenditures per student for instructional staff services, including curriculum development, staff training, libraries, and media and computer centers, increased by 13 percent from 2000–01 to 2011–12 (from $453 to $511), but peaked in 2008–09 at $556. The exception to this trend was food services where expenditures per student in 2011–12 were the highest ever reported ($443).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). The Condition of Education 2015 (NCES 2015-144), Public School Expenditures.

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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education