How Much Are Our Schools Spending?

We recently got a question on our Facebook page regarding per-student spending in public schools, charter schools, and private schools. Upon further research, we were surprised to find that only 15% of respondents to an EdChoice poll were able to correctly estimate how much Americans spend on public schools (from Forbes). With that in mind, we created this fact sheet on school spending.


Public Schools

The most recent data on public school spending from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that the operation of public schools costs about $11,011 per pupil. The biggest portion of that spending is nearly $7,000 per student for instruction, and $829 per student is spent on administration costs.

Charter Schools

A 2014 study by The Center for Education Reform says that charter schools spend $7,658 per student on average, most of which is made possible through fundraising; they average only $7,131 in state funding. (For further reading about charter schools, check out our article here)

Private Schools

Numbers on private schools are a little more difficult to find, but in 2009, The Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice reported that per-student spending was nearly $15,000 for independent schools, over $12,000 for Hebrew schools, $7,743 for Catholic schools, and about $5,727 for Christian Association Schools. Average tuition for private schools was $10,740 in 2012, according to The Center for Education Reform.

Additional Spending to Overcome Disadvantages

We were also asked how much additional spending would be needed to help students overcome the disadvantages of socioeconomic background and lack of parental involvement. While we haven’t seen that spending estimated anywhere, in our opinion, it’s less a matter of spending and more a matter of teaching non-academic skills like conflict resolution and healthy relationships with others. According to writer Paul Tough, students are lacking in character and grit, and Elevate Teachers agrees with his opinion that those traits lead to students’ success. (Watch Paul Tough explain “The Hidden Power of Character” here)

What do you think about school spending, now that you’ve seen the numbers? Leave a comment below.