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Adapted from "Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 1999–2000"
by Frank Johnson, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics
May 16, 2002

U.S. Education Spending: 1999-2000

Nearly $373 billion of revenues were raised to fund public education for grades prekindergarten through 12 in school year 1999–2000. Current expenditures (those excluding construction, equipment, and debt financing) came to almost $324 billion. Three out of every five current expenditure dollars were spent on teachers, textbooks, and other instructional services and supplies. An average of $6,911 was spent on each student—an increase of 6.2 percent from $6,508 in school year 1998–99 (in unadjusted dollars). Total expenditures for public education, including school construction, debt financing, community services, and adult education programs, came to nearly $382 billion.

These and other financial data on public elementary and secondary education are collected and reported each year by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), U.S. Department of Education. The data are part of the "National Public Education Financial Survey" (NPEFS), one of the components of the Common Core of Data (CCD) collection of surveys.

Revenues for Public Elementary and Secondary Education

About $373 billion was collected for public elementary and secondary education for school year 1999–2000 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Total revenues ranged from a high of around $45 billion in California, which serves about 1 out of every 8 students in the nation, to a low of about $750 million in North Dakota, which serves about 1 out of every 416 students in the nation. Nationally, revenues increased an average of 7.4 percent over the previous year's revenues of $347 billion (in unadjusted dollars).

By far, the greatest part of education revenues came from nonfederal sources (state, intermediate, and local governments), which together provided about $346 billion, or 92.7 percent of all revenues. The federal government contribution to education revenues made up the remaining $27 billion. The relative contributions from these levels of government can be expressed as portions of the typical education dollar. For school year 1999–2000, local and intermediate sources made up 43 cents of every dollar in revenue, state revenues comprised 50 cents, and the remaining 7 cents came from federal sources.

Among states with more than one school district, revenues from local sources ranged from 14.4 percent (New Mexico) to 65.8 percent (Nevada) of total revenues. Hawaii and the District of Columbia have only one school district each and thus are not comparable to other states. Revenues from state sources also showed a wide distribution in their share of total revenues. The state revenue share of total revenues was less than 30 percent in Nevada (29.1 percent) and more than 70 percent in Vermont (73.6 percent) and New Mexico (71.5 percent). Federal revenues ranged from 3.9 percent in New Jersey to 15.4 percent in Alaska. Federal revenues made up 20.4 percent of total revenues in the District of Columbia.

Current Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education

Current expenditures for public education in 1999–2000 totaled about $324 billion. This represents a $21 billion (6.9 percent) increase over expenditures in the previous school year ($303 billion in unadjusted dollars). About $200 billion in current expenditures went for instruction. Another $110 billion was expended for a cluster of services that support instruction. Almost $14 billion was spent on noninstructional services.

When expressed in terms of the typical education dollar, instructional expenditures accounted for 62 cents of the education dollar for current expenditures. Instructional expenditures include teacher salaries and benefits, supplies (e.g., textbooks), and purchased services.

About 34 cents of the education dollar went for support services, which include operation and maintenance of buildings, school administration, transportation, and other student and school support activities (e.g., student counseling, libraries, and health services). Approximately 4 cents of every education dollar went to noninstructional activities, which include school meals and enterprise activities, such as bookstores.

Most states were closely clustered around the national average (61.7 percent) in terms of the share of current expenditures that was spent on instruction; all but five states and the District of Columbia spent more than 58.0 percent of their current expenditures on instruction. These states were Alaska, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Three states spent more than two-thirds of their current expenditures on instruction. These states were New York (68.1 percent), Maine (66.9 percent), and Massachusetts (66.8 percent).

Current Expenditures per Pupil

In 1999–2000, the 50 states and the District of Columbia spent an average of $6,911 in current expenditures for every pupil in membership. This represents a 6.2 percent increase in current expenditures per pupil from the previous school year ($6,508 in unadjusted dollars). Three states—New Jersey ($10,337), New York ($9,846), and Connecticut ($9,753)—expended more than $9,000 per pupil. The District of Columbia, which comprises a single urban district, spent $10,107 per pupil. Only one state, Utah, had expenditures of less than $4,500 for each pupil in membership ($4,378). The median per pupil expenditure was $6,530, indicating that one-half of all states educated students at a cost of less than $6,530 per pupil.

In 1999–2000, on average, about $4,267 per pupil was spent for instructional services, $2,350 for support services, and $293 for noninstructional purposes.

Expenditures for Instruction

Expenditures for instruction totaled nearly $200 billion for school year 1999–2000. Over $145 billion went for salaries for teachers and instructional aides. Benefits for instructional staff made up an additional $36 billion, bringing the total for salaries and benefits for teachers and instructional aides to $181 billion. Instructional supplies, including textbooks, made up nearly $10 billion. Expenditures for purchased services were nearly $6 billion. These expenditures include the costs for contract teachers (who are not on the school district's payroll), educational television, computer-assisted instruction, and rental equipment for instruction. Tuition expenditures for sending students to out-of-state schools and nonpublic schools within the state totaled over $2 billion.

Total Expenditures

Total expenditures made by school districts came to nearly $382 billion in the 1999–2000 school year. About $324 billion of total expenditures were current expenditures for public elementary and secondary education. An additional $35 billion went for facilities acquisition and construction, $8 billion for replacement equipment, and another $9 billion for interest payments on debt. The remaining amount ($5 billion) was spent on other programs, such as community services and adult education, which are not part of public elementary and secondary education.

Total expenditures include all types of expenditures by school districts and other public elementary/secondary education agencies. Researchers generally use current expenditures instead of total expenditures when comparing education spending between states or across time because current expenditures exclude expenditures for capital outlay, which tend to have dramatic increases and decreases from year to year. Also, the current expenditures commonly reported are for public elementary and secondary education only. Many school districts also support community services, adult education, private education, and other programs, which are included in total expenditures. These programs and the extent to which they are funded by school districts vary greatly both across states and within states.

This document is not necessarily endorsed by the Almanac of Policy Issues. It is being preserved  in the Policy Archive for historic reasons.

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