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How Massachusetts' Education Spending Per Student Compares Nationwide

How Massachusetts' Education Spending Per Student Compares Nationwide

Boston, MA– Public education spending per student has increased nationwide by 3.7% ($438 per student) from fiscal year 2016 to 2017. This year’s annual report by the U.S. Census Bureau showed an increase in average spending per child in the U.S., from $11,763 in 2016 to $12,201 per pupil for the 2017 fiscal year. While Massachusetts was not one of the top five highest spending states, the Boston public school system was among the highest-spending large schools systems, at $22,292 per pupil in 2017.  

On average, Massachusetts spent $16,197 per student enrolled in public schools in 2017, making it the state with the eighth-highest spending in the country, at almost 33 percent above the national average. Patch reports: “Instructional costs including teacher salaries and benefits accounted for $10,000 of that amount; the rest went for support services including administration.”

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) compiles its own spending numbers, including spending per pupil per district and average teacher salaries. What determines the differences between districts? WGBH explained school funding in Massachusetts back in March. The state sets a minimum amount to be allocated per student (currently: $11,448). Part of this funding comes from the federal government, and part of it from the state. Districts may contribute additional funding according to local budgets and resources.

Jeff Wulfson, deputy commissioner of DESE, stated: “There is no school district in the Commonwealth whose city or town is paying for the full cost of those schools. The state subsidizes the educational costs of every school district in the state. What varies is the amount that we subsidize it.”

That variation is based on the need. For wealthier districts, the state may pay up to 17.5 percent of its base cost per student, while poorer districts may receive 90 percent of those funds from the state. And many wealthier districts spend beyond the minimum. The public school with the most spending per student, according to Massachusetts state data? Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical, at $35,609.08 per student.  

Education finance reform is on the table this year at the Statehouse. The Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee has proposed a bill that would increase funding by $218 million over the next fiscal year and change the formula for how public school districts are reimbursed. House Speaker Robert DeLeo says he hopes there will be a vote on the proposal before the end of the fiscal year in July.