K-12: Washington spends $9,594 per student - New NEA numbers beg question: Where is the money going?

by Bob Williams,
Evergreen Freedom Foundation


A new report (see pages 95-96 for a breakdown of state education expenditures) published by the National Education Association (NEA) reveals that in 2002 education spending in Washington increased by $1,168 per student (over 2001 levels) to a total of $9,594 per student.

These startling numbers beg the question: Where is the money? Recognizing that school performance is not what it should be, can the problems truly be blamed on a lack of money, or do they stem from the way that money is being spent?

According to the NEA, Washington spent an estimated $9,594 per student in the K-12 public education system in 2001-02. This is an increase of $1,168 per student over 2000-01 expenditures. The two major expenditure increases were:

- General expenditures: $437 increase per student
- Capital (building) expenditures: $701 increase per student

Expenditures per pupil in Washington are 10.1 percent higher than the national average.

According to the NEA, only 23.2 percent of total 2001-02 education expenditures were used for teacher salaries, which average $43,483 in Washington. Factoring in total compensation (salary, benefits, supplemental contracts, etc.), which averages nearly $60,000 for Washington teachers,* brings teacher pay to 32 percent of total expenditures.

Legislators have some important questions to ask this session as they consider requests for increased funding and look for ways to improve the K-12 education system:

Are we getting $9,594 worth of value for each student in our public schools? Is Washington's K-12 system really facing a shortage of money, or does the problem stem from the way current dollars are being spent?

If Washington spends 10.1 percent more than the national average for education, but only 32 percent of that amount is spent on teachers, where is the rest of the money? Can we truly say that all of the money currently being spent outside the classroom is providing more value for students than it otherwise could?

1) National Education Association, "Rankings & Estimates," Fall 2002. Update published November 2002. <http://www.nea.org/edstats/images/02rankings.pdf>.
2) *Washington State Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program Committee.

Prepared by Bob Williams, President and Senior Research Analyst (360) 956-3482


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