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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 2017–18 amounted to $762 billion, or $14,891 per public school pupil enrolled in the fall (in constant 2019–20 dollars).1 Total expenditures included $13,118 per pupil in current expenditures, which include salaries, employee benefits, purchased services, tuition, supplies, and other expenditures. Total expenditures per pupil also included $1,376 in capital outlay (expenditures for property and for buildings and alterations completed by school district staff or contractors) and $397 for interest on school debt.

Current expenditures per pupil enrolled in the fall in public elementary and secondary schools were 4 percent higher in 2017–18 than in 2009–10 ($13,118 vs. $12,623). The change in current expenditures per pupil over this period began by decreasing from $12,623 in 2009–10 to $11,975 in 2012–13, before increasing to $13,118 in 2017–18.

Capital outlay expenditures per pupil in 2017–18 ($1,376) were 1 percent higher than in 2009–10 ($1,362). Interest payments on public elementary and secondary school debt per pupil were 4 percent lower in 2017–18 ($397) than in 2009–10 ($415). Both capital outlay expenditures per pupil and interest payments per pupil fluctuated during this period.


Current expenditures, capital outlay, and interest on school debt per pupil in fall enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools: 2009–10 through 2017–18

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

NOTE: Data in this figure represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia. "Current expenditures," "Capital outlay," and "Interest on school debt" are subcategories of total expenditures. Current expenditures include salaries, employee benefits, purchased services, tuition, supplies, and other expenditures. Capital outlay includes expenditures for property and for buildings and alterations completed by school district staff or contractors. Expenditures are reported in constant 2019–20 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, and other expenditures. On a national basis, the proportion of current expenditures for staff salaries decreased from 60 percent in 2009–10 to 56 percent in 2017–18, while the proportion of current expenditures for employee benefits increased from 21 to 24 percent. Taken together, approximately 80 percent of current expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools went to salaries and benefits for staff in 2017–18, a decrease of roughly one percentage point from 81 percent in 2009–10. The percentage of current expenditures going toward purchased services, which include a variety of items, such as contracts for food, transportation, janitorial services, and professional development for teachers, increased between 2009–10 and 2017–18 (from 10 to 11 percent). Seven percent of current expenditures in 2017–18 were for supplies, ranging from books to heating oil. The percentage of current expenditures for supplies decreased about 1 percentage point from 2009–10 to 2017–18. Tuition and other expenditures accounted for 2 percent of current expenditures in both 2009–10 and 2017–18.

1 Expenditures in this Fast Fact are adjusted for inflation to constant 2019–20 dollars using the Consumer Price Index, or 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.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). The Condition of Education 2021 (NCES 2021-144), Public School Expenditures.

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