NY per-pupil spending reaches $23k

by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

New York’s spending on elementary and secondary education reached a record $23,091 per pupil in 2017, once again topping all other states in this category, according to the latest U.S. Census data.

As shown below, the education spending gap between New York and the rest of the U.S. has grown considerably wider overall the past 20 years. The Empire State’s per-pupil spending was 45 percent above average in 1997, and 65 percent above average in 2007. As of 2017, New York spent 89 percent more than the national per-pupil average.

As documented in a recent Empire Center report, declining enrollment is one of the factors driving up New York’s relative per-pupil spending level. The number of pre-K to 12th grade pupils in New York public schools has dropped by more than 10 percent since 2000, contrasting with a national enrollment increase of 7 percent during the same period. The difference reflects underlying demographic trends, including upstate New York’s continuing population decline and out-migration losses to other states.

Some other notable comparative metrics from the 2017 Annual Survey of School System Finances:

  • School spending in New York grew by 3.2 percent in 2017, slightly below the U.S. average of 3.7 percent.
  • Relative to personal income, New York’s elementary and secondary education spending of $52.36 per $1,000 ranked third, trailing only Alaska and Vermont, about 40 percent higher than the national average by this measure.
  • Excluding charter schools, New York’s public elementary and secondary schools had 2.6 million pupils and spent nearly $64 billion in 2016—exceeded only by California, which spent about $76 billion on a public school system with 6.2 million pupils.
  • School spending in New York was driven primarily by instructional salaries and benefits—which, at $16,113 per pupil, were 117 percent above the national average of $7,406, the census data show. Indeed, New York’s spending in this category alone exceeded the total per-pupil spending of all but six other states.
  • In the category of “support services,” which measures the bureaucratic overhead of  central and school administration, New York ranked sixth with spending of $6,480 per pupil. That was 51 percent above the national average—but if New York had spent the national average in the support category, it still would have ranked second in overall per-pupil spending. narrowly trailing only the District of Columbia.
  • New York City’s spending of $25,199 per pupil was the highest among the nation’s 100 largest school systems.

As shown in the comparative table below, New York also continues to spend considerably more than neighboring northeastern states with similarly powerful education lobbies and high living costs. On a per-pupil basis, New York’s school expenditures were 22 percent higher than New Jersey’s, 20 percent higher than Connecticut’s and 43 percent higher than Massachusetts’.

Note: Payments to other school systems are excluded from this table. Expenditures for adult education, community services and other nonelementary-secondary programs are also excluded in the per pupil data. Detail may not add to total because of rounding.

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- E.J. McMahon is the Research Director at the Empire Center for Public Policy.