If you’re reading this blog, you have probably heard — or cited — the statistic that California schools spend less per student than schools in almost every other state. Comparisons published by Education Week’s research department usually place California in the 40s, at the bottom of the heap. This year, California ranked a lowly 47.
But a report released today by the U.S. Census ranks California 23rd out of 51 in per-student spending, though still about $500 below the national average. Table 11, in the above Census link, includes the totals for each state and Washington, D.C. Of course, these figures are based on 2007 spending levels, before the bulk of the recent state cutbacks.
Why the difference? Ed Week researchers adjust the per-student spending numbers using the Comparable Wage Index to take into account regional cost differences, while the Census gives us the raw breakdown.
The Census report found that California schools spent an average of $9,152 per student in 2007 compared to the biggest spender, New York ($15,981 per student), and Utah at the other end ($5,683). The national average at the time was $9,666.
At the top, behind New York, were New Jersey ($15,691) and Washington, D.C. ($14,324). At the bottom, just above Utah, were Idaho ($6,625) and Tennessee ($7,113).
On the subject of wages: In a presentation on teacher compensation I heard in March, Stanford University researcher Susanna Loeb noted that salaries of teachers (and those in other occupations, from lawyers to nurses) were substantially higher in California than in other states. But because California’s schools don’t receive extra funding to cover the salary/cost-of-living difference, you see fewer adults in the state’s public schools than almost anywhere else in the U.S.