California drops a notch in public school spending


California slipped a notch in spending per public school pupil in 2011, falling to 35th among
states in a year that marked the first overall drop across the nation in nearly four decades, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

The 50 states and Washington, D.C., spent an average $10,560 per student in 2011, down 0.4% from 2010, according to the report. Most of the top spenders were in the Northeast, while the lowest were in the South and West. New York ranked first, spending $19,076 per
student, while Utah ranked last at $6,212.

California’s national ranking in school spending has steadily declined since 2008, when the severe economic downturn prompted the state to cut $9.3 billion in educational dollars over the following four years. Per-pupil spending dropped to $9,139 in 2011 compared with $9,863 in 2008, when the state ranked 23rd.

The state is ranked even lower when spending is measured as a percentage of personal income. In 2011, Californians spent $36.24 per $1,000 of income on public education, dropping to 45th from 42nd in 2010.


But that is poised to change now that voters approved a measure last year to hike taxes for public education, state finance officials said.

“The recession took its toll on revenues,” said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the state Department of Finance. “But not only are we on the road back, it’s important how we spend the new dollars.”

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a major shift in the way public school dollars are distributed, calling for more dollars to be distributed to students who are low-income, still learning English and are in foster care.

Revenues already have begun to rebound. According to the census report, California’s per-student revenue from federal, state and local sources increased to $11,048 in 2011 compared with $10,581 a year earlier. That boosted the state’s ranking to 31st from 40th.

The census report estimates include federal dollars, the major reason that its per-pupil spending figure is higher than that reported by state finance officials, who count only state and local revenue. The report is based on figures reported by states on revenue, expenditures, debt and assets of the nation’s elementary and secondary public schools and includes detailed statistics on spending, such as instruction, student transportation, salaries and employee benefits.

Other highlights:

--New York, Washington, Alaska, New Jersey, Vermont, Wyoming, Connecticut,
Massachusetts, Maryland and Rhode Island were the highest spenders per student.

--Utah, Idaho, Oklahoma, Arizona, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, Nevada, Texas and
Colorado were the lowest spenders.

--The New York City school district spends twice as much per pupil on instructional salaries as does Los Angeles Unified.


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Twitter: @TeresaWatanabe |