Public Education Finances 2008

U.S. Census Bureau
June 2010

This annual report is a comprehensive accounting of financial statistics for the country’s 15,569 public K-12 school systems. In this latest iteration, analysts used data for 2007-08 (the latest available) to calculate three primary statistics: the breakdown of education revenue by type; current operating costs, with an extensive disaggregation of spending by function; and debt levels. Though the present financial crisis has surely up-ended the budgets of many districts and states, the findings are still informative, especially because we know that states and districts largely have no clue about what money goes where. A few sobering statistics: In 2007-08, the public school revenues totaled $582.1 billion, of which 8.1 percent came from federal sources, 48.3 percent, state, and 43.7 percent, local. In the same year, however, schools spent $593.2 billion, roughly $11 billion more than they collected. Outstanding aggregate district debt at fiscal year’s end ranged from $42.6 million in California and $56.4 million in Texas to $48K in Wyoming and $68K in North Dakota. Unfortunately, we don’t learn anything about charter finances, since the way the Census Bureau defines charter schools as “nongovernment entities” means that they are excluded from the report. But the mismatch between revenue and spending in traditional schools puts the current dire state budgetary situation in perspective: When you spend beyond your means, belt tightening is going to hurt that much more. Read the report here.

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