This piece originally appeared at reimaginED.
As American students head back to school this month, it’s a good time for parents and taxpayers to think about what public schools are spending and what parents are getting from that investment. While many people underestimate what public schools spend per student, transparency reforms and technology can give the public greater insight into the costs and benefits of public schooling.
According to a May 2023 Morning Consult poll sponsored by EdChoice, the average American adult estimates that public schools spend $5,000 per student. And 55 percent of American adults believed that per-student spending in their state is “too low.” But that’s only if they are not given information about what public schools actually spend.
A recent Department of Education report showed that the average per-pupil expenditure in public schools was $14,300 in 2021, or nearly three times more than the average American’s estimate according to the Morning Consult poll. (State-by-state average expenditures vary between a low of $9,000 in Utah to $26,000 in New York.) When provided with information, the survey found that only 38 percent believed that funding was too low.