Spending on Public Schools Soars

Published August 1, 2002

Although lawmakers are frequently criticized for not spending enough on public education, recently published statistics from the U.S. Department of Education reveal that in 2001-02 American taxpayers sent over $8,500 in revenues per student to the public schools for the education of 47.6 million students—a grand total of $405.8 billion. In the five years since 1997-98, revenues per student have increased by more than a fifth (20.6 percent).

But other new data—from the National Center for Education Statistics for school years 1998-99 and 1999-2000—suggest total expenditures per student could be even higher, or approximately $8,700 per student, according to calculations by School Reform News.

Taxpayers are “paying private prep school prices for public schools,” charges Lil Tuttle, education director for Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute in a recent paper focused on spending in Virginia.

“In the Richmond area, total spending per pupil is overtaking the tuition costs of elite private schools as well as private schools tailored to meet special-education needs,” writes Tuttle. “Northstar ($8,340), a private school serving learning disabled, ADHD, dyslexic, and autistic children, charges $1,400 less per student than Richmond charges taxpayers for students in the city’s public schools.”

State-by-state information on revenues and spending per student, plus several productivity indicators, are provided in Just the Facts on page 18.

Tuttle’s paper is available at www.cblpolicyinstitute.org/privatepublic.htm.