Census: Maine’s K-12 per-pupil spending now tops $11,300


With state budget writers confronting a growing deficit, Maine’s K-12 education spending, which is the largest single expenditure of state dollars, is likely to attract a lot of attention. Undoubtedly, the argument will be made that Maine schools cannot endure further cuts to K-12 spending, and that undertaking such cuts will do irreparable harm to educational outcomes.

That argument has became tougher to make with the release of state K-12 spending data by the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the Bureau’s most recent calculations, Maine’s 2006-2007 K-12 spending was $11,387, which ranked the state 12th in the nation.

Maine spends $1700 per-pupil more than the national average, says the Census.  With little over 190,000 students in Maine schools, that $1700 per-pupil adds up to $340 million that Maine is spending on its schools over and above the national average.

Are the results we’re getting worth that amount of extra spending? Our students do tend to score above national averages on standardized tests, but how much of that is the product of our schools and how much is due to the unique demography of Maine’s student population, which is overwhelmingly white and English-speaking?  Wouldn’t such a population be expected to exceed national averages for academic performance?

The question of how much educational bang we’re getting for the considerable pile of bucks were spending on K-12 education is a critical one for the state’s budget writers to answer, especially given these new figures from the Census.

Let’s hope the discussion this data prompts is productive.