ALBANY -- New York spent the highest per pupil on education in the nation, at $20,610, in 2014 – 87 percent above the national average, the U.S. Census Bureau said.
New York has long led the nation in school spending. This fiscal year, the state is spending $24.8 billion in education aid to its nearly 700 school districts, up 6.5 percent from the previous year.
According to the Census figures, New York's per pupil spending grew 4 percent between 2013 and 2014. The national per pupil spending was $11,009, a 2.7 percent increase from 2013, the figures showed.
Utah spent the least per pupil at $6,500. After New York, the highest spending was the District of Columbia at $18,485, Alaska at $18,416, New Jersey at $17,907 and Connecticut at $17,745.
“This is the largest increase in total revenue since 2008, when there was a 4.1 percent increase from the prior year,” Stephen Wheeler, a Census Bureau analyst, said in a statement. “School system revenue comes from federal, state and local government sources.”
Increasingly school aid is an annual battle at the state Capitol: Education groups fight for more money, and lawmakers lobby for more funding for their districts. Usually, the governor proposes an increase in school aid in January, then the Legislature adds more before the fiscal year starts April 1.
"New York also continues to spend considerably more than neighboring Northeastern states with similarly powerful education lobbies and high living costs," E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center, an Albany-based fiscally conservative think tank. "On a per-pupil basis, New York’s school expenditures were 15 percent higher than New Jersey’s, 16 percent higher than Connecticut’s and 37 percent higher than Massachusetts'."
Between 2009 and 2014, New York's per pupil spending grew 14 percent. It was $18,126 in 2009, according to the Census Bureau.
New York’s public elementary and secondary schools had 2.6 million students in 2014 and spent more than $62 billion on its schools when state, federal and local tax dollars are included. Only California spent more.
The Empire Center pointed out that salaries and benefits accounted for $14,289 of the per pupil spending, the Census statistics showed, which more than twice the national average of $6,654.
New York's spending is in part because it's an expensive state to live in, said Billy Easton, executive director of Alliance for Quality Education, a labor-backed group based in Albany.
Easton said New York still isn't fulfilling a Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling in 2006 mandated New York provide funding for a "sound, basic education” for its students. Then newly elected Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007 pledged a $7 billion increase in schools over four years, but state officials have argued that the court case didn't put a dollar figure on the amount required.
Also, Easton said, New York has great disparity between wealthy and poor districts -- which isn't reflected in the average per-pupil spending.
"New York has one of the largest contrasts in spending between rich and poor," he said. "So that average figure – the fact that they are spending $30,000 in a wealthy suburb – doesn’t help a kid in a poor community who isn't given that money."