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Average U.S. public school spending per pupil in elementary and secondary schools rose 8.9% to $15,633 in fiscal year 2022 from the previous year, and even higher in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent Annual Survey of School System Finances data. 

While statistics are not adjusted for inflation or cost-of-living differences, this change still marks the largest year-to-year percentage increase in over two decades. 

New Jersey had the third-highest level of per pupil spending in the nation ($25,099) in FY22, a 13.26% increase from FY 2021. According to the federal Census Bureau data, the local share of education costs in New Jersey increased 3.75% in FY22 to $18,141,352,000. State spending on education grew 12.97% to $16,991,110,000 in FY22. 

All nine states in the Northeast region, which has a higher cost of living than most places in the U.S., ranked in the top 14 for per pupil spending in FY22.  

 The top five states for per pupil spending were: 

  • New York ($29,873) 
  • District of Columbia ($27,425) 
  • New Jersey ($25,099) 
  • Vermont ($24,608) 
  • Connecticut ($24,453) 

Sixteen of the 20 states with the lowest per pupil spending were in the South or West. The states with the lowest per pupil spending were: 

  • Utah ($9,552) 
  • Idaho ($9,670) 
  • Arizona ($10,315) 
  • Oklahoma ($10,890) 
  • Mississippi ($10,984) 

Among the nation’s 100 largest school systems by enrollment, the New York City School District in New York ($35,914) spent the most per pupil in FY 2022, followed by Washington Schools in the District of Columbia ($27,425); San Francisco Unified in California ($23,654); Atlanta School District in Georgia ($22,882); Los Angeles Unified in California ($21,940); and Detroit School District in Michigan ($21,771). 

While instructional salaries ($266.4 billion) continued to account for the largest category in spending nationwide, there was a significant increase from FY 2021 to FY 2022 in both Food Services and Transportation expenditures as schools returned to in-person learning.