There’s a lot of data out there about how much we spend on schools. One consistently reliable source is the U.S. Census Bureau. It collects and publishes exhaustive financial information about public elementary and secondary school systems, broken down using multiple measures.
Here are some data points from the most recent Census Bureau report to help give perspective on how much Washington invests in education relative to other states in our region.
|State||Per pupil amount|
Note: numbers reflect 2014 data – the most recent available – and includes federal, state and local dollars.
Washington spends more per pupil on education than all but two states in the Western region – Overall, Washington sits at 28th out of 51 states (includes Washington D.C.) for per pupil spending on education, at $10,202 per student. Of neighboring/regional states, only Montana ($11,017) and Wyoming ($15, 797) spend more per pupil than Washington.
Washington is among top four in nation for education spending increases – per the most recent data available, Washington is one of only four states to increase education spending by more than five percent in a one-year span. From 2013 to 2014, Washington’s per pupil spending increased by 5.5 percent, trailing only two other states (Connecticut and New Mexico) with Hawaii following closely at 5.4 percent. As a state, Washington invests nearly 50 percent of its entire operating budget on education.
What matters moving forward – there are countless ways to slice and dice data on education spending. These rankings don’t consider other factors, such as cost of living, student demographics, local labor market conditions, and other forces that can drive the cost of paying for schools up or down.
Under both the Senate and the House plans being considered right now in the state legislature, schools would see substantial additional investments. The Senate plan would increase K-12 spending by $5.79 billion over the next two budget cycles while the House would invest $5.173 billion over that same time. Under the Senate plan, every student in Washington would receive a guaranteed minimum of $12,500 in funding, and additional supports if the child has a disability ($7,500), is living in poverty ($2,000 to $5,000), learning English ($1,000) or is homeless ($1,500).
Of course, while money is necessary, it cannot, standing alone, assure Washington students receive a world-class education. There are states that spend more than Washington where students don’t fare as well, states that spend less where students outperform those in Washington, and pretty much everything in between. That’s why the way we invest our dollars in education is just as important as how much we spend.