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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 201516 amounted to $706 billion, or $13,847 per public school student enrolled in the fall (in constant 201718 dollars).1 Total expenditures included $12,330 per student in current expenditures, which includes salaries, employee benefits, purchased services, tuition, and supplies. Total expenditures also included $1,155 per student in capital outlay (expenditures for property and for buildings and alterations completed by school district staff or contractors) and $362 for interest on school debt.

Current expenditures per student enrolled in the fall in public elementary and secondary schools were 18 percent higher in 201516 than in 200001 ($12,330 vs. $10,458, both in constant 201718 dollars). Current expenditures per student increased from $10,458 in 200001 to $12,183 in 200809, decreased between 200809 and 201213 to $11,552, and then increased each of the next three years, reaching $12,330 in 201516.

Capital outlay expenditures per student in both 201011 and 201516 ($1,155 in each year) were 17 percent lower than in 200001 ($1,383). Interest payments on public elementary and secondary school debt per student were 19 percent higher in 201516 than in 200001. During this period, interest payments per student increased from $305 in 200001 to $407 in 201011, before declining to $362 in 201516 (all amounts in constant 201718 dollars).


Current expenditures, interest payments, and capital outlays per student in fall enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools: Selected years, 200001 through 201516

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 201718 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, employee benefits, purchased services, tuition, supplies, or other expenditures. On a national basis in 201516, approximately 80 percent of current expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools were for salaries and benefits for staff, compared with 81 percent in 200001. As the proportion of current expenditures for staff salaries decreased from 64 percent in 200001 to 57 percent in 201516, the proportion of current expenditures for employee benefits increased from 17 to 23 percent. Approximately 11 percent of current expenditures in 201516 were for purchased services, which include a variety of items, such as contracts for food, transportation, janitorial services, and professional development for teachers. The percentage of the expenditure distribution going toward purchased services shifted only slightly from 200001 to 201516, increasing from 9 to 11 percent. Seven percent of school expenditures in 201516 were for supplies, ranging from books to heating oil. The percentage of current expenditures for supplies decreased about 1 percentage point from 200001 to 201516. Tuition and other expenditures accounted for two percent of current expenditures in both 200001 and 201516.

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. (2019). The Condition of Education 2019 (NCES 2019-144), Public School Expenditures.

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