How spending on public education in every state has changed—and where the money comes from

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the U.S. public education system, diminishing enrollment by unprecedented numbers. As a growing contingent of parents have enrolled their kids in private or charter schools or turned to home-schooling, a key consequence has been less money for public schools and districts, as public school funding is determined by student population. This funding crunch has thrust the lives of many public school teachers, administrators, families, and students into crisis.

Lower student enrollment has also meant layoffs for teachers and other school staff, fewer resources and opportunities for kids, and even closing schools entirely. Funding for public education comes from several sources: state and local funding streams, as well as federal revenues, which include assistance for special education programming, low-income student aid, vocational programs, and nutrition.

But between states, and even on the county and city level, spending on public education varies greatly, further driving inequities between students—educational, economic, and racial disparities that often persist into adulthood, limiting future opportunities.

While some states spend significantly more per student than others, the U.S. on average lags behind other developed countries in its public education spending. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average amount spent per pupil in the U.S. is $16,993, ranking seventh amongst the 37 other member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. That figure drops to just over $13,000 per pupil for K-12 public schools. At that rate, the accumulated total expenditure for all K-12 schools in the U.S. equals just 3.4% of taxpayer income.

Historically, public education funding has taken major hits after recessions, as states slash education budgets in an effort to tighten their belts. However, the impact of the pandemic on public schools prompted the allocation of emergency federal spending under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funds, counteracting some of the effects of diminished state and local revenue streams. While helpful for the first year or two of the pandemic, studies have shown that the funding was ultimately not enough to negate the learning loss experienced by students.

In order to compare each state’s spending on public education, Best Universities used data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of School Systems to rank states by their spending per pupil. States with no data available for the 2021 school year were ranked according to their 2020 data and are marked with an asterisk.

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Exterior of public school building.

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#51. Idaho

– Per pupil spending: $9,053 (26.5% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $2.7 million

– Total revenue: $3.0 million

— Local sources: $706,358

— State sources: $1.8 million

— Federal sources: $472,735

Two female students building machine in science robotics class.

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#50. Utah

– Per pupil spending: $9,095 (30.8% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $6.5 million

– Total revenue: $6.5 million

— Local sources: $2.5 million

— State sources: $3.3 million

— Federal sources: $636,977

Group of school buses in parking lot.

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#49. Arizona

– Per pupil spending: $9,605 (26.2% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $10.3 million

– Total revenue: $10.5 million

— Local sources: $4.5 million

— State sources: $4.2 million

— Federal sources: $1.9 million

Exterior public school building on clear day.

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#48. Nevada*

– Per pupil spending: $9,814 (9.5% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $5.3 million

– Total revenue: $5.3 million

— Local sources: $1.6 million

— State sources: $3.3 million

— Federal sources: $408,478

Boy using digital tablet during class in classroom.

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#47. Tennessee*

– Per pupil spending: $9,896 (12.3% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $11.2 million

– Total revenue: $11.1 million

— Local sources: $4.8 million

— State sources: $5.2 million

— Federal sources: $1.1 million

Kids raising hands in classroom.

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#46. Mississippi

– Per pupil spending: $10,164 (16.8% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $5.2 million

– Total revenue: $5.3 million

— Local sources: $1.8 million

— State sources: $2.4 million

— Federal sources: $1.0 million

Elementary school students walking into school building.

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#45. Texas*

– Per pupil spending: $10,342 (14.7% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $71.9 million

– Total revenue: $68.9 million

— Local sources: $38.5 million

— State sources: $23.5 million

— Federal sources: $6.8 million

Classroom with students seated at desk, with teacher at front

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#44. Florida

– Per pupil spending: $10,401 (16.6% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $33.4 million

– Total revenue: $34.3 million

— Local sources: $17.0 million

— State sources: $12.6 million

— Federal sources: $4.8 million

Selective focus of books on library shelf.

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#43. Oklahoma

– Per pupil spending: $10,489 (29.5% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $7.4 million

– Total revenue: $7.0 million

— Local sources: $3.1 million

— State sources: $3.2 million

— Federal sources: $781,561

High school student holding molecule structure in chemistry class.

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#42. North Carolina

– Per pupil spending: $10,655 (21.2% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $16.4 million

– Total revenue: $16.1 million

— Local sources: $4.2 million

— State sources: $9.8 million

— Federal sources: $2.0 million

Group of elementary students sitting together in library.

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#41. Alabama

– Per pupil spending: $10,683 (15.6% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $9.1 million

– Total revenue: $9.7 million

— Local sources: $3.0 million

— State sources: $5.2 million

— Federal sources: $1.5 million

Elementary school teacher giving high-five to student.

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#40. Indiana*

– Per pupil spending: $10,935 (10.9% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $13.4 million

– Total revenue: $13.3 million

— Local sources: $4.1 million

— State sources: $8.3 million

— Federal sources: $947,532

Three seated teen students in classroom.

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#39. South Dakota

– Per pupil spending: $10,952 (19.4% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $1.8 million

– Total revenue: $1.9 million

— Local sources: $932,103

— State sources: $607,394

— Federal sources: $373,186

Yellow buses lined up in front of school.

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#38. Arkansas

– Per pupil spending: $11,266 (14.4% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $6.1 million

– Total revenue: $6.1 million

— Local sources: $783,222

— State sources: $4.3 million

— Federal sources: $990,370

Four seated teen students writing in class.

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#37. New Mexico*

– Per pupil spending: $11,332 (16.9% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $4.2 million

– Total revenue: $4.5 million

— Local sources: $828,101

— State sources: $3.1 million

— Federal sources: $633,201

Exterior of high school building.

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#36. Louisiana*

– Per pupil spending: $11,843 (7.3% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $8.2 million

– Total revenue: $8.8 million

— Local sources: $4.1 million

— State sources: $3.6 million

— Federal sources: $1.0 million

Selective focus of hand raised in classroom.

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#35. Missouri

– Per pupil spending: $11,865 (15.0% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $11.9 million

– Total revenue: $11.7 million

— Local sources: $5.3 million

— State sources: $4.8 million

— Federal sources: $1.5 million

Exterior of public school building.

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#34. Colorado

– Per pupil spending: $12,073 (26.1% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $13.0 million

– Total revenue: $12.9 million

— Local sources: $6.7 million

— State sources: $5.4 million

— Federal sources: $831,834

Row of parked yellow school busses.

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#33. Georgia

– Per pupil spending: $12,145 (24.3% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $23.1 million

– Total revenue: $24.7 million

— Local sources: $11.4 million

— State sources: $10.3 million

— Federal sources: $3.0 million

Elementary student and teacher talking to class.

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#32. Kentucky

– Per pupil spending: $12,212 (23.8% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $9.2 million

– Total revenue: $9.4 million

— Local sources: $3.2 million

— State sources: $4.7 million

— Federal sources: $1.5 million

Overhead view of two round tables with groups of students studying.

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#31. West Virginia*

– Per pupil spending: $12,375 (9.6% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $3.6 million

– Total revenue: $3.7 million

— Local sources: $1.2 million

— State sources: $2.1 million

— Federal sources: $431,832

Students seated at desks in classroom.

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#30. South Carolina

– Per pupil spending: $12,513 (22.1% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $10.7 million

– Total revenue: $11.1 million

— Local sources: $4.8 million

— State sources: $5.2 million

— Federal sources: $1.2 million

Group of students raising hands in class.

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#29. Iowa

– Per pupil spending: $12,695 (13.9% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $7.7 million

– Total revenue: $7.9 million

— Local sources: $3.0 million

— State sources: $4.0 million

— Federal sources: $866,314

Teenage boy using laptop while studying.

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#28. Kansas*

– Per pupil spending: $12,697 (27.5% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $7.6 million

– Total revenue: $7.3 million

— Local sources: $1.9 million

— State sources: $4.9 million

— Federal sources: $521,925

Group of students raising hands in class.

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#27. Montana

– Per pupil spending: $13,299 (17.2% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $2.3 million

– Total revenue: $2.2 million

— Local sources: $925,591

— State sources: $898,971

— Federal sources: $424,944

Male student writing at desk.

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#26. Wisconsin

– Per pupil spending: $13,597 (18.7% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $13.2 million

– Total revenue: $13.2 million

— Local sources: $4.9 million

— State sources: $7.2 million

— Federal sources: $1.1 million

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Exterior of public school building.

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#25. Nebraska

– Per pupil spending: $13,816 (12.3% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $5.5 million

– Total revenue: $5.1 million

— Local sources: $3.1 million

— State sources: $1.6 million

— Federal sources: $484,645

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High school students in biology lab.

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#24. Virginia

– Per pupil spending: $13,835 (21.0% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $18.9 million

– Total revenue: $19.3 million

— Local sources: $9.7 million

— State sources: $7.8 million

— Federal sources: $1.7 million

School children raising hands in classroom.

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#23. Oregon

– Per pupil spending: $13,843 (27.7% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $10.4 million

– Total revenue: $9.7 million

— Local sources: $3.7 million

— State sources: $5.3 million

— Federal sources: $707,344

Group of elementary school students getting on bus.

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#22. Michigan

– Per pupil spending: $14,085 (20.7% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $21.0 million

– Total revenue: $22.2 million

— Local sources: $7.2 million

— State sources: $12.1 million

— Federal sources: $2.9 million

Yellow school sign with buildings in background.

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#21. Minnesota

– Per pupil spending: $14,378 (16.1% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $15.0 million

– Total revenue: $14.4 million

— Local sources: $4.1 million

— State sources: $8.9 million

— Federal sources: $1.3 million

Elementary school students lining up for bus.

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#20. Ohio

– Per pupil spending: $14,585 (20.5% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $27.3 million

– Total revenue: $27.4 million

— Local sources: $14.1 million

— State sources: $10.8 million

— Federal sources: $2.4 million

Female student holding book in library.

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#19. Maine*

– Per pupil spending: $14,892 (12.1% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $3.0 million

– Total revenue: $3.1 million

— Local sources: $1.7 million

— State sources: $1.2 million

— Federal sources: $177,918

School children at desk in computer lab.

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#18. California

– Per pupil spending: $15,017 (30.6% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $97.1 million

– Total revenue: $106.6 million

— Local sources: $36.4 million

— State sources: $55.4 million

— Federal sources: $14.8 million

Elementary school students sitting in group with hands raised.

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#17. Massachusetts

– Per pupil spending: $15,092 (3.2% decrease from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $15.8 million

– Total revenue: $9.8 million

— Local sources: $2.2 million

— State sources: $6.6 million

— Federal sources: $1.0 million

Child working on math assignment at desk.

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#16. North Dakota

– Per pupil spending: $15,140 (13.2% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $2.1 million

– Total revenue: $2.1 million

— Local sources: $693,897

— State sources: $1.1 million

— Federal sources: $336,071

Elementary school building exterior.

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#15. Washington

– Per pupil spending: $15,448 (33.9% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $21.0 million

– Total revenue: $20.5 million

— Local sources: $5.0 million

— State sources: $13.9 million

— Federal sources: $1.7 million

Elementary school students in computer class.

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#14. Maryland

– Per pupil spending: $16,417 (15.6% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $16.2 million

– Total revenue: $17.4 million

— Local sources: $8.7 million

— State sources: $7.5 million

— Federal sources: $1.2 million

Group of young children getting on school bus.

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#13. Hawaii*

– Per pupil spending: $16,564 (20.5% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $3.2 million

– Total revenue: $3.4 million

— Local sources: $51,323

— State sources: $3.1 million

— Federal sources: $278,259

Teacher leading elementary school class.

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#12. Delaware

– Per pupil spending: $17,549 (19.3% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $2.3 million

– Total revenue: $2.6 million

— Local sources: $803,051

— State sources: $1.6 million

— Federal sources: $189,228

Exterior of American high school building.

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#11. Pennsylvania

– Per pupil spending: $17,884 (15.9% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $33.9 million

– Total revenue: $34.8 million

— Local sources: $18.8 million

— State sources: $13.0 million

— Federal sources: $3.0 million

Students focused on desks during class

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#10. Wyoming

– Per pupil spending: $18,144 (10.4% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $1.9 million

– Total revenue: $1.9 million

— Local sources: $718,270

— State sources: $976,134

— Federal sources: $233,888

Closeup of male student writing in notebook

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#9. Illinois

– Per pupil spending: $18,353 (29.4% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $39.1 million

– Total revenue: $40.6 million

— Local sources: $21.3 million

— State sources: $16.1 million

— Federal sources: $3.2 million

Group of high school students seated in classroom

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#8. Rhode Island

– Per pupil spending: $18,366 (18.2% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $2.7 million

– Total revenue: $2.7 million

— Local sources: $1.4 million

— State sources: $1.1 million

— Federal sources: $258,934

School children lined up to board bus.

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#7. New York

– Per pupil spending: $18,858 (15.7% decrease from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $58.9 million

– Total revenue: $77.4 million

— Local sources: $45.0 million

— State sources: $29.6 million

— Federal sources: $2.8 million

Student taking standardized test at desk.

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#6. New Hampshire

– Per pupil spending: $19,443 (26.7% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $3.3 million

– Total revenue: $3.5 million

— Local sources: $2.2 million

— State sources: $1.1 million

— Federal sources: $219,164

Hands raised in classroom.

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#5. Alaska

– Per pupil spending: $19,447 (11.1% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $2.7 million

– Total revenue: $2.6 million

— Local sources: $563,831

— State sources: $1.6 million

— Federal sources: $427,239

Students in computer coding class.

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#4. New Jersey

– Per pupil spending: $19,695 (7.0% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $29.5 million

– Total revenue: $33.7 million

— Local sources: $17.3 million

— State sources: $15.0 million

— Federal sources: $1.4 million

Top view of student at desk in school classroom.

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#3. Vermont

– Per pupil spending: $22,740 (27.2% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $2.0 million

– Total revenue: $2.1 million

— Local sources: $8,139

— State sources: $1.8 million

— Federal sources: $201,153

Teacher calls on student with raised hand in class.

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#2. Connecticut

– Per pupil spending: $22,769 (20.1% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $12.0 million

– Total revenue: $12.4 million

— Local sources: $7.2 million

— State sources: $4.5 million

— Federal sources: $663,398

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#1. District of Columbia

– Per pupil spending: $24,535 (21.3% increase from 2016)

– Total expenditures: $1.7 million

– Total revenue: $1.7 million

— Local sources: $1.5 million

— State sources: Not applicable

— Federal sources: $166,591

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