N.J. Near Top in Per-Pupil Spending

June 22, 2012

When it comes to public school spending, New Jersey's average of $16,841 per pupil in 2010 ranked it second to the top among states, the U. S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.

The average of $18,618 in New York and $18,667 in Washington, D.C., exceeded New Jersey's per-pupil spending. All nine states in the Northeast region were ranked among the top 15 in spending in 2010.

In arguing for a new tenure bill and weaker seniority rules, Governor Christie has long argued that money alone does not bring achievement, and that billions poured into the state's poorest city schools have not brought adequate results. Many educators counter that New Jersey's schools, in the aggregate, are among the highest-performing in the country, even though there are pockets of chronically troubled schools with dismal test scores and low graduation rates.

There are many ways to calculate per-pupil spending, depending on whether transportation, debt service, capital outlays and other expenses are included. Last year Christie started counting those items, saying doing so gives taxpayers a fuller picture. According to data released in May by the state Department of Education, New Jersey spent an average of $17,469 per student in the school year ending 2011.

The Education Law Center, an advocacy group, asserted that Christie added items to the per-pupil funding figures to bolster his arguments for reining in spending on urban schools. The group says the Christie administration's proposed 2013 budget, which must be negotiated and passed by July 1, shortchanges poor children.

According to the Census Bureau, Utah spent $6,064 per student, the least nationwide.

Public school systems received $594 billion in 2010, up 0.5 percent from the prior year. Of that, local and state governments contributed 44 percent each, and federal sources paid the rest.