All states play a huge role in determining the quality of education that students receive. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 92 percent of funding at the elementary and secondary school levels comes from nonfederal sources. So, parents who are highly invested in their children’s schooling should consider how much emphasis their state places on public education.
To determine which states spend the least and most on education, GOBankingRates analyzed the per-student spending by state, the expenditures of public elementary and secondary school systems across America and the total population in every state, based on U.S. Census Bureau data. Overall, states spend an average of $11,950.49 on each student and approximately $11.7 billion on education. However, the study found that schooling costs can fluctuate significantly across the U.S., and certain regions value education more highly than others.
Click through to see which states put education first — and which states spend the least on students.
States That Spend the Least on Education
Compared to the rest of America, these 10 states are tighter with their purse strings when it comes to public education. Despite the cost, perhaps private school is the solution in these states where funding might be lacking.
- Per-pupil spending: $9,015.87
- Total education expenditures: $45.9 billion
Even though Texas ranked low on per-pupil spending by state, its total education expenditures are actually the third-highest on this list. The Lone Star State spent $154.57 more on each student — an increase of 1.7 percent — between 2015 and 2016.
- Per-pupil spending: $8,960.11
- Total education expenditures: $4 billion
Although Nevada ranks among the states that spend the least on education, the Silver State increased its spending per student by $345.34 between 2015 and 2016. If you plan on raising your children there, find out which area contains the richest school district in Nevada.
- Per-pupil spending: $8,919.96
- Total education expenditures: $25.3 billion
At nearly 21 million people, Florida boasts the third-largest population among the states. However, the median household income in the wealthiest school district in Florida is surprisingly low — only $69,523.
- Per-pupil spending: $8,809.82
- Total education expenditures: $8.9 billion
A 1 percent change in per-pupil spending meant young scholars in Tennessee, which has a total population of 6.7 million, saw slightly more funding between 2015 and 2016 — to the tune of $86.45 per student.
6. North Carolina
- Per-pupil spending: $8,792.05
- Total education expenditures: $12.9 billion
North Carolina ranked among the states that spend the least on education because its increase of $104.83 in per-student spending between 2015 and 2016 didn’t add much to its already low expenditures.
- Per-pupil spending: $8,701.85
- Total education expenditures: $4.2 billion
Although Mississippi opened its coffers to greater per-student spending between 2015 and 2016 and allowed an additional $246.18 for each pupil, it wasn’t enough to lift the state out of the bottom 10 in this ranking.
- Per-pupil spending: $8,097.02
- Total education expenditures: $5.5 billion
It makes sense that Oklahoma ranked among the states that spend the least on education — the Sooner State offers the worst teacher pay in America. Per-student spending grew by a paltry $14.81 between 2015 and 2016, which is an increase of only 0.2 percent.
- Per-pupil spending: $7,613.01
- Total education expenditures: $7.3 billion
Arizona doesn’t spend much on education for a state of its size. For context, the Grand Canyon State’s population is approximately 7 million. In the past, Arizona educators have protested for change by threatening to walk out for higher wages.
- Per-pupil spending: $7,157.40
- Total education expenditures: $2 billion
Idaho, which ranked second-worst among the states that spend the least on education, has a total population of roughly 1.7 million. Between 2015 and 2016, Idaho increased its per-pupil spending by 3.4 percent, or $234.30 for each student.
- Per-pupil spending: $6,953.12
- Total education expenditures: $4.1 billion
Though Utah ranked dead last in terms of education spending compared to the rest of America, the state actually increased its budget for each student by 5.8 percent — or $378.57 per pupil — between 2015 and 2016.
States That Spend the Most on Education
Education appears to be a top priority in these 10 states that are willing to shell out more money for each student in the public schooling system. Though the education budget by state varies, many of the states that spend the most on education are located in the same region.
10. New Hampshire
- Per-pupil spending: $15,340.22
- Total education expenditures: $2.8 billion
Overall, New Hampshire is a solid option for families who want to live a richer life. Per-pupil spending swelled by 4.4 percent between 2015 and 2016, which amounted to an increase of $643.46 per student.
- Per-pupil spending: $15,417.53
- Total education expenditures: $26.3 billion
Pennsylvania saw one of the highest increases in per-student spending between 2015 and 2016. Expenditures for each pupil grew by $700.84, to be exact — a change of 4.8 percent.
8. Rhode Island
- Per-pupil spending: $15,531.56
- Total education expenditures: $2.2 billion
In addition to education spending, Rhode Island is one of the best states for first-time homebuyers, according to a separate GOBankingRates study — which bodes well if you’re thinking about starting a family there.
- Per-pupil spending: $15,592.74
- Total education expenditures: $15.5 billion
Per-student spending didn’t change much in Massachusetts between 2015 and 2016, yet it still ranks among the states that spend the most on education. Overall, schooling eats up plenty of dollars there — Massachusetts is home to several of the most expensive high schools in the U.S.
- Per-pupil spending: $16,441.98
- Total education expenditures: $1.6 billion
Although Wyoming’s total education expenditures aren’t high compared to the rest of America, keep in mind that the state’s population is only 579,315 — the smallest on this list — which significantly drives up the figure for per-student spending.
- Per-pupil spending: $17,509.98
- Total education expenditures: $2.3 billion
Despite making the list of states that spend the most on education, Alaska actually cut its per-student spending by a whopping 13.2 percent — or $2,662.52 — between 2015 and 2016, which was the biggest drop among all the states.
- Per-pupil spending: $17,872.88
- Total education expenditures: $1.7 billion
Vermont landed in the top five states that spend the most on education even though it slashed per-pupil spending by nearly 1 percent — or $166.22 for each student — between 2015 and 2016.
3. New Jersey
- Per-pupil spending: $18,402.35
- Total education expenditures: $26.8 billion
The difference in per-pupil spending between New Jersey and Arizona, which ranked among the bottom three states that spend the least on education, is a staggering amount: over $10,000 per student.
- Per-pupil spending: $18,957.84
- Total education expenditures: $9.8 billion
The fact that Connecticut ranks highly among the states that spend the most on education should come as no surprise — school principals take home six-figure salaries in this state. Per-pupil spending saw an increase of $580.55, or 3.2 percent, between 2015 and 2016.
1. New York
- Per-pupil spending: $22,366.37
- Total education expenditures: $61.4 billion
Despite its already huge education budget, New York actually increased its per-student spending by $1,160.79 between 2015 and 2016. It’s among the states where private school costs more than college, so parents in the Empire State are lucky to have a well-funded public school system to fall back on.
Per-Pupil Spending by State: A Complete Ranking
Overall, the study determined that eight of the top 10 states that spend the most on education are located in the Northeast. Parents seeking a well-funded education for their children should consider planting roots in that region, which includes New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire — though Alaska and Wyoming are also solid options.
Meanwhile, the states that spend the least on education are concentrated in two regions: the South and the Mountain States. Six of the bottom 10 states — including Texas, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, Mississippi and Oklahoma — can be found in the South. The remaining four states are clustered together as part of the Mountain States: Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Idaho. Families with children in these regions might want to consider moving to states where teachers are paid more than the average American.
Here’s a complete look at education spending per state:
- New York: $22,366.37
- Connecticut: $18,957.84
- New Jersey: $18,402.35
- Vermont: $17,872.88
- Alaska: $17,509.98
- Wyoming: $16,441.98
- Massachusetts: $15,592.74
- Rhode Island: $15,531.56
- Pennsylvania: $15,417.53
- New Hampshire: $15,340.22
- Delaware: $14,713.37
- Maryland: $14,205.77
- Illinois: $14,180.03
- Hawaii: $13,748.28
- North Dakota: $13,372.86
- Maine: $13,278.16
- Minnesota: $12,381.96
- Nebraska: $12,298.90
- Ohio: $12,102.15
- Michigan: $11,667.99
- Washington: $11,534.19
- California: $11,495.33
- Wisconsin: $11,456.00
- Virginia: $11,432.34
- Montana: $11,348.31
- West Virginia: $11,290.52
- Iowa: $11,150.21
- Louisiana: $11,038.30
- Oregon: $10,841.59
- Missouri: $10,312.78
- South Carolina: $10,249.07
- Kansas: $9,959.64
- Kentucky: $9,862.91
- Indiana: $9,856.31
- Arkansas: $9,845.57
- Georgia: $9,768.71
- New Mexico: $9,692.70
- Colorado: $9,574.74
- Alabama: $9,236.42
- South Dakota: $9,175.74
- Texas: $9,015.87
- Nevada: $8,960.11
- Florida: $8,919.96
- Tennessee: $8,809.82
- North Carolina: $8,792.05
- Mississippi: $8,701.85
- Oklahoma: $8,097.02
- Arizona: $7,613.01
- Idaho: $7,157.40
- Utah: $6,953.12
Click through to find out how much teachers make in every state.
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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined which states spend the most and least on education by analyzing (1) state spending per student, (2) the expenditures of public elementary-secondary school systems by state, (3) the percent change in spending per pupil between 2015-16, (4) the total change in spending per pupil between 2015-16 and (5) the total population in each state. Data was sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau, where the most recent information available was from 2016.