schoolbus2-150x150-2300191New York surpassed all states with per-pupil elementary and secondary school spending of $22,366 per pupil as of 2016, according to the latest U.S. Census data.

The Empire State spent 90 percent more than the U.S. average of $11,762, up from 86 percent above average in 2015. The education spending gap between the Empire State and the national average has grown dramatically over the past 20 years, as shown below.

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Some other notable comparative metrics from the 2016 Census data:

  • School spending in New York grew by 5.5 percent in 2016—the fifth highest growth rate of any state, well above the national average spending growth rate of 3.2 percent per pupil.
  • Relative to personal income, New York’s elementary and secondary education spending of $52.87 per $1,000 ranked third, trailing only Alaska and Vermont, more than 41 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 more than $61 billion in 2016—exceeded only by California, which spent about $73 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 $15,746 per pupil, were 120 percent above the national average of $7,160, the census data show. Indeed, New York’s spending in this category alone exceeded the total per-pupil spending of all but six states.
  • In the category of “support services,” which measures the bureaucratic overhead of  central and school administration, New York ranked seventh with spending of $6,130 per pupil. That was 49 percent above the national average—but if New York had spent the national average in the support category, it still would have ranked number one in overall per-pupil spending.

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, 18 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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About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is a senior fellow at the Empire Center.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.