State is near the top in per-pupil spending

A recent U.S. Census Bureau report shows Connecticut in fifth place nationally for per pupil spending in 2014. The report also shows Connecticut received the lowest percentage of federal funding of all 50 states and the District of Columbia that year.

Across the nation, revenue for elementary and secondary education increased 3.3% from fiscal year 2013, amounting to $617.6 billion in fiscal year 2014, according to the report, released last month.

Per pupil spending for the nation was $11,009, a 2.7% increase from 2013, the largest increase in per pupil spending since 2008, when it jumped 6.1% from the prior year.

The Census Bureau described per pupil spending as including gross school system expenditure for instruction, support services and non-instructional functions including direct expenditure for salaries, employee benefits, student transportation, building maintenance, purchased property and other services and supplies.

Leading the nation in per pupil spending is New York, which spent $20,610 in 2014, followed by:

  • The District of Columbia — $18,485;

  • Alaska — $18,416;

  • New Jersey — $17,907;

  • Connecticut — $17,745.

The states that spent the least per pupil were:

  • Utah — $6,500;

  • Idaho — $6,621;

  • Arizona — $7,528;

  • Oklahoma — $7,829;

  • Mississippi — $8,263.

Nationwide, four states spent less than $10,000 per pupil, 20 spent $10,000 to $11,999, 12 spent $12,000 to $13,999, seven spent $14,000 to $15,999, and eight spent $16,000 or more.

By contrast, Wilton and its neighboring school districts spent much more than the national average, although Wilton was just below the state average, spending $17,702 in the 2013-14 fiscal year according to the adopted budget. In the coming fiscal year, Wilton will spend $19,556 per pupil.

In District Reference Group (DRG) A — school districts of similar family income — for the 2013-14 fiscal year, Region 9 (Joel Barlow H.S.) came out on top, spending $21,027, followed by Redding (K-8) at $20,515, Weston at $18,883, New Canaan at $18,577, Westport at $17,885, Ridgefield at $17,744, Wilton at $17,702, and Easton at $16,048 (K-8).

But none of these was among the top spenders in Connecticut:

  • $26,640 — Canaan (K-8);

  • $27,759 — Cornwall (K-8);

  • $24,481 — Region 12;

  • $24,424 — Sharon (PreK-8);

  • $22,542 — Hampton (PreK-8).

Spending the least per pupil in Connecticut were:

  • $11,244 — Marlborough (PreK-8);

  • $11,469 — Barkhamsted;

  • $11,825 — Ellington;

  • $12,154 — Danbury;

  • $12,381 — Wolcott.

These two sets of numbers are from the state school profiles for 2012-2013, the latest information available on the state website.

Nationally, expenditures for instruction amounted to $330.4 billion, or 60.4% of total spending. This includes salaries and benefits.

Overall, revenue raised from local sources amounted to $276.2 billion, or 44.7% of public elementary-secondary funding, while the federal government contributed $52.9 billion, or 8.6% of public elementary-secondary funding.

Percentagewise, Louisiana received the greatest federal support at 15.3%, followed by Mississippi at 14.9%, South Dakota at 13.9%, Arizona at 13.3% and New Mexico at 12.9%.

The states receiving the lowest percentage of revenues from the federal government were all in the Northeast:

  • Connecticut — 4%;

  • New Jersey — 4.2%;

  • Massachusetts — 4.8%

  • New York — 5.5%;

  • New Hampshire — 5.5%.

In New England, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine rely mostly on local income to fund schools. Vermont relies mostly on state funding, with little reliance on federal or local funds.

The distribution of revenue in Connecticut breaks down to 4% federal, 55.6% state, 40.6% local.

Connecticut has 206 school districts with 1,445 public schools/programs, and a total enrollment of 541,815 students. Connecticut was the state with the second-highest increase in spending from 2013 to 2014 at 6.7%, exceeded only by New Mexico at 8%.

Five states decreased spending from 2013 to 2014, with the greatest decrease in the District of Columbia at -3.1% and Idaho at -2.5%.

Except for the DRG A numbers, this information came from the Public Education Finances: 2014 report, which provides figures on revenues, expenditures, debt and assets (cash and security holdings) for the nation’s elementary and secondary public school systems. The report and tables, released annually, include detailed statistics on spending — such as instruction, student transportation, salaries and employee benefits — at the national, state and school district levels.