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Washington spending per student below national average

Overall, the U.S. spent $595 billion to educate about 48 million public school students in 2011. New York spent the most per pupil at $19,076. Washington spent $9,483. (AP file photo)

For the first time in more than three decades, spending per public school student fell, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data.

Spending for elementary and high schools across the 50 states and Washington, D.C. averaged $10,560 per pupil in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011.

That was down .4 percent from 2010 and the first drop since the bureau began collecting the data on an annual basis in 1977.

Here is the full report with pages of tables. I’ve pulled out some of the facts that interested me.

Overall, the U.S. spent $595 billion to educate about 48 million students in 2011.

Salaries accounted for $308 billion, the largest share of the total, with another $109 billion going toward employee benefits including pensions.

New York spent the most per pupil at $19,076, followed by Washington, D.C. $18,475; Alaska $16,674; New Jersey $15,968; and Vermont $15,925.

Utah spent the least, $6,212 per student, followed by Idaho $6,824; Oklahoma $7,587; Arizona $7,666; and Mississippi $7,928.

How did Washington fare? Our state spent $9,483 per student in 2011 when we had just over one million public school students (1,043,536).

Critics, such as Bill Gates, have argued that throwing more money at public education is not the solution. Public education costs have skyrocketed over the past decade, while academic achievement has not kept pace.

The Gates Foundation is among those who want the system overhauled before more money is spent.

Washington is in a unique position with a constitution that defines fully funding public education as a “paramount duty” of the state. Lawmakers have debated for decades what full funding of education means.

This year the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the state is not meeting its constitutional obligation to pay for basic public education. The state needs to add $4 billion to education funding by 2018.

Governor Jay Inslee has proposed spending an additional $1.2 billion to K-12 education.


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