Educational Spending Slowed in 2009

The New York Times reported that overall education spending grew at a slower pace in 2009 than at any other time in more than a decade, amid deepening state fiscal woes and flatter tax revenues, according to new census figures.
Public school districts spent an average of $10,499 per student on elementary and secondary education in the 2009 fiscal year, up 2.3 percent from 2008. In contrast, spending rose by 6.1 percent and 5.8 percent in the two years before that.

Total revenues devoted to education — which include money from federal, state and local sources — rose to $590.9 billion in 2009, or 1.5 percent more than the year before. Of that amount, state revenues accounted for $276.2 billion (46.7 percent); local revenues, $258.9 billion (43.8 percent), and federal revenues, $55.9 billion (9.5 percent).

The report showed that spending slowed as a direct result of big cuts in education aid in some states after years of near constant growth. In total, such aid fell 1.7 percent to $276 billion, with the largest cuts in Florida, Michigan and California.

Meanwhile, local tax revenue continued to grow, but at a slower rate than in past years; property taxes accounted for about two-thirds of that revenue.

The report does not cover most of the $100 billion in federal stimulus money distributed to schools beginning in spring 2009, though federal aid did increase by $8.8 billion during the period.

New York led the nation once again in overall spending, at $18,126 per student, with school officials pointing to high personnel costs and a large number of state education mandates, among other factors, that push up the cost of education in the state.

Washington, D.C., ranked second, with spending rising 12.4 percent over the previous year — the largest increase in the nation — to $16,408. The next three highest-spending states were New Jersey ($16,271), Arkansas ($15,552) and Vermont ($15,175).

At the other end of the scale, Utah spent the least per student, at $6,356, preceded by Idaho ($7,092), Arizona ($7,813), Oklahoma ($7,885), and Tennessee ($7,897).

Employee benefits, including pensions and health care, continued to be the fastest-growing cost in education, increasing at twice the rate of salaries, according to the figures. For instance, educator benefits accounted for 22 cents of every $1 spent on schools in 2009, compared with 17 cents in 2002.

As the population ages and more retirees look at their shrinking Social Security payments, I expect that educational spending will continue to decrease.  I believe this because seniors have the ability to vote on school budgets while they do not have the ability to vote on politicians’ salaries, prisons, highway building or most everything else on local budgets.