How Much Does Your Local Public School Spend?
It comes as a surprise to most people who don’t follow education policy closely that we have never really known how much an individual public school spends per student. Historically, school spending has been reported at the district level, and the best we have been able to do is average that figure across all of the schools and students in the district.
As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, passed by Congress in 2015, districts are now required to report spending at the school level. Unfortunately, those data can be hard to find, and aren’t available in an easy-to-access, user-friendly way. That is, until now.
Project Nickel has created a searchable database of school-level spending. You simply type the name of your local public school into the search bar, and you can find out how much it spends.
What you find might surprise you. Border Star Elementary, a beloved Kansas City public school, spends $21,982 per student per year. Sumner High in St. Louis spends $17,580. I could go on, but I recommend checking it out yourself.
To answer the question that will inevitably arise: The primary reason that different schools, even within the same district, spend different amounts of money is teachers. More senior teachers make more money than more junior teachers, so schools with higher concentrations of veteran teachers will spend more per student, on average. It is worth thinking about why some schools seem to collect large numbers of veteran teachers while others do not, but perhaps that is a topic for another day.