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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 were $927 billion in 2020–21 (in constant 2022–23 dollars).1,2,3 This amounts to an average of $18,614 per public school pupil enrolled in the fall of that school year.4 Data in this Fast Fact represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia unless otherwise noted.

In 2020–21, of the $18,614 spent on total expenditures per pupil nationally,

Average current expenditures per pupil enrolled in the fall in public elementary and secondary schools increased by 13 percent from 2010–11 ($14,453) to 2020–21 ($16,280), after adjusting for inflation. During this period, current expenditures per pupil were lowest in 2012–13 ($13,952) and then increased each year from 2012–13 to 2020–21.

Current expenditures can be defined by their object, meaning the service or commodity bought (as distinct from the activity supported by that service). These services and commodities include staff salaries, employee benefits, purchased services, tuition, supplies, and other expenditures. Each of these can support activities in both instruction and noninstruction functions. The object of the majority of current expenditures for education was salaries. From 2010–11 to 2020–21, the percentage of current expenditures spent on staff salaries decreased from 59 to 55 percent. In contrast, the percentage of current expenditures spent on employee benefits increased from 21 to 24 percent during this period. Altogether, salaries and benefits combined accounted for 79 to 80 percent of current expenditures throughout the decade. About two-thirds of expenditures for salaries and benefits supported the function of instruction in 2020–21.

Apart from salaries and benefits, current expenditures in 2020–21 were spent as follows:

The percentage of current expenditures spent on each of these objects in 2020–21 differed by 1 percentage point or less compared with the corresponding percentage in 2010–11.

1 For general technical notes related to data analysis, data interpretation, rounding, and other considerations, please refer to the Condition of Education Reader’s Guide.
2 All expenditures in this Fast Fact are adjusted for inflation to constant 2022–23 dollars using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). For this Fast 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.
3 Excludes prekindergarten expenditures and prekindergarten enrollment for California.
4 Per pupil expenditures exclude expenditures for state education agencies and "other current expenditures," such as community services, private school programs, adult education, and other programs not allocable to expenditures per pupil in public schools.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics. (2024). Public School Expenditures. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from

Numbers in figure titles reflect original numeration from source Condition of Education indicators.

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