Skip to main content

Main Area

Main

States investing most in their schools' infrastructure

  • States investing most in their schools' infrastructure

    When it comes to the condition of its school facilities, the U.S. gets a near-failing grade (a D+ to be exact, according to the Infrastructure Report Card). There are an estimated 100,000 public school buildings on U.S. soil, and 24% of those facilities were rated as being in poor or fair conditions, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Even more disconcerting, their report also revealed that 40% of public schools didn’t have a long-term plan to address educational facilities maintenance. Many states reduced funding amounts for their schools during the 2008 recession and have yet to revisit the issue, regardless of the fact that more and more children are attending school every year. Between 1994 and 2013, the student population increased by five million, and enrollment is projected to increase even more (up to 3% more) by 2026.

    A school’s infrastructure is essential to education quality, and the lack of good facilities can be detrimental to both the learning and the safety of students. Many students, especially those in low-income school districts, are forced to go without essentials like air conditioning in the summer, and on particularly hot days, they are forced to miss school completely because of it. The issue goes further still, from poorly constructed classrooms that may become dangerous or overcrowded, to less-than-ideal sanitation facilities.  

    Capital outlay—or the money spent to maintain, repair, or upgrade fixed assets like school facilities—was at 8.3 % of U.S. total spending in 2016. That leaves $1,009 of U.S. capital outlay available per student. To give readers an idea of which states are in better shape in terms of school infrastructure, Stacker took capital outlay data from the U.S. Census 2012–2016 Annual Survey of School System Finances and compared it to the National Center for Education Statistics school enrollment reports by state for the 2015–2016 year. To go even further, Stacker found information on education and spending outcomes from local news sources and statistics from The Nation's Report Card, The ASCE Infrastructure Report, and high school graduation rates to compare on a state by state basis. The states were ranked from lowest to highest by their capital outlays per pupil in the 2012–2016 period.

    You might also like: Best private high schools in America

  • #50. Idaho

    - Capital outlay per student (2012–2016): $256
    - Capital outlay percent of total spending: 3.7% (#47 among all states)
    - Total expenditures per student (2012–2016): $6,858 (#50 among all states)

    Schools in Idaho are mostly funded by the state, with about 60% of funding coming from the state level. The rest comes from local money (28%) and the federal government (12%). Idaho legislature takes time every year to decide how much money will come from the state level, taking into account aspects such as student enrollment and teacher benefits. In 2018, the Boise-based education nonprofit Bluum was awarded $17.1 million in federal funds to expand public charter schools in Idaho.

  • #49. Rhode Island

    - Capital outlay per student (2012–2016): $286
    - Capital outlay percent of total spending: 1.8% (#50 among all states)
    - Total expenditures per student (2012–2016): $15,834 (#9 among all states)

    The state saw a 1.3% increase in four-year graduation rates for the class of 2017, making for a 84.1% success rate. The Rhode Island Department of Education was able to secure $3 million in 2019 for afterschool and summer programs in the state. They have also developed an education-finance system to base spending off of student and district needs, and to invest about $2.3 billion into the public school system each year.


     

  • #48. Maine

    - Capital outlay per student (2012–2016): $462
    - Capital outlay percent of total spending: 3.3% (#48 among all states)
    - Total expenditures per student (2012–2016): $13,933 (#15 among all states)

    Maine bases its spending formula on "essential programs and services” necessary for students to achieve learning goals. In 2017, 40% of eighth grade students performed at or above the proficient level in reading, above the national average. The state spent $2.6 million on elementary and secondary schools in 2016. In 2012, Maine switched its grading system to "proficiency-based learning,” but recently switched back to traditional diplomas.

  • #47. North Carolina

    - Capital outlay per student (2012–2016): $466
    - Capital outlay percent of total spending: 5.3% (#44 among all states)
    - Total expenditures per student (2012–2016): $8,877 (#45 among all states)

    North Carolina’s public education system had $14 million worth of expenditure in 2016, and 1.5 million students enrolled. The following year, fourth grade students tested slightly above the national average in mathematics. The state superintendent is introducing plans in 2019 to reduce the amount of testing in public schools, after 78% of parents reported that their children took too many tests.

  • #46. Nevada

    - Capital outlay per student (2012–2016): $486
    - Capital outlay percent of total spending: 5.5% (#43 among all states)
    - Total expenditures per student (2012–2016): $8,876 (#46 among all states)

    The average score for Nevada fourth graders in mathematics has increased since 2000 by about 12 points, but it’s still slightly lower than the national average for public school students. The two largest school districts (Clark County and Washoe County) have both voted on tax increases to help fund schools, albeit with different outcomes. Clark’s proposal was turned down by voters twice, while Washoe approved a tax increase that will put $1 billion toward building and maintaining 18 new schools.

  • #45. Arizona

    - Capital outlay per student (2012–2016): $534
    - Capital outlay percent of total spending: 7.5% (#27 among all states)
    - Total expenditures per student (2012–2016): $7,145 (#48 among all states)

    In the 2015–2016 school year, there were 1,109,040 students enrolled in Arizona public schools, with a teacher to student ratio of 23 to 13. A large number of teachers in the state left their classrooms to go on strike in 2018, and the walkout was resolved only after the governor signed a bill that would raise their pay 20% over three years. Currently, lawmakers are considering several different bills that would change the way teachers could choose to conduct their classes.

  • #44. Tennessee

    - Capital outlay per student (2012–2016): $578
    - Capital outlay percent of total spending: 6.1% (#39 among all states)
    - Total expenditures per student (2012–2016): $9,405 (#43 among all states)

    The education system in Tennessee is on the rise, with sustained levels of improvements over the past eight years. A 2018 report by the National Council on Teacher Quality credited teacher evaluations for making Tennessee "a model for the rest of the country on how to spur academic growth and increase teacher retention.” While the budget has increased slightly in per-student spending for Tennessee schools, it’s still much lower (14%) than it was before the recession.

  • #43. Vermont

    - Capital outlay per student (2012–2016): $592
    - Capital outlay percent of total spending: 3.2% (#49 among all states)
    - Total expenditures per student (2012–2016): $18,566 (#5 among all states)

    Funding for Vermont’s schools has pretty much stayed level since the 1990s. In 2018, the governor signed a bill intending to improve services for special education students, improving the methods in which funding decisions are made for the programs. Average scores for both eighth grade and fourth grade students were significantly higher than the national average in 2016 in math, reading, and science.

  • #42. Florida

    - Capital outlay per student (2012–2016): $600
    - Capital outlay percent of total spending: 6.3% (#38 among all states)
    - Total expenditures per student (2012–2016): $9,479 (#42 among all states)

    Less than 1% of Florida students—0.1%, to be exact—live in school districts that meet the national benchmark for spending. The state has been fighting a lawsuit for the past nine years against a group of parents who’ve said that the legislature hasn’t met constitutional obligations for providing quality education through funding. The ASCE gave Florida a D+ in school infrastructure for 2016, noting that the faster-growing counties may not be allocating enough space for its enrollment rates.

  • #41. New Hampshire

    - Capital outlay per student (2012–2016): $639
    - Capital outlay percent of total spending: 4.1% (#45 among all states)
    - Total expenditures per student (2012–2016): $15,516 (#10 among all states)

    New Hampshire is going through some scrutiny from residents who don’t believe the state is doing everything it can to provide adequate funding for schools. The state has closed three elementary schools since 2009, forcing other schools to retrofit in order to accommodate more students. According to some parents, the education funding formula hasn’t been working. The state adequacy grants only cover about 18% of educational costs in New Hampshire, while 60% comes from local taxes.

2018 All rights reserved.