Nebraska school spending stays in middle of the pack

Friday, June 22, 2012

Nebraska is in the middle of the pack when it comes to paying for public education, and while local taxpayers pay more than half of that cost directly, schools won't escape the effects of any attempt to deal with the national deficit.

That's because $18.1 billion in expenses were shifted from state to federal sources, according to Public Education Finances: 2010, a Census Bureau report. That $18.1 billion was a 32.5 percent increase in federal spending from 2009, the largest increase in federal funding for public school systems since 1977.

The nation's elementary-secondary public school systems spent an average of $10,615 per pupil in fiscal 2010, up 1.1 percent from the previous year.

The District of Columbia spent the most, $18,667 per student in 2010, and one of Nebraska's neighbors, Wyoming, was high on the list as well, $15,169.

States on the lower end of the per-pupil scale included Utah with $6,064, Idaho $7,106, Arizona $7,848 and Oklahoma $7,896.

Nationally and in the District of Columbia, the local state provides 43.7 percent of the cost of education, the per-pupil cost is $10,826 and the annual classroom teacher earns $56,069, according to data provided by the National Education Association.

Nebraskans pay 53.7 percent of the cost of education locally, the per-pupil cost is $10,452 and the average classroom teacher earns $47,521.

The cutbacks have already begun. Total expenditures by public school systems were $602.6 billion in 2010, a 0.4 percent decrease from 2009, the first time that has happened since the Census Bureau began keeping track.

With the pressure on, we need to make a special effort to make sure students get the best possible education with the taxpayers' money.

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