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How Spending per Pupil in New York State Varies Among Districts

September 19, 2012

New York school spending is, on average, well above the national norm – $18,825 per student per year compared to $10,292 nationally. (See Table 1.) But the statewide average masks wide variation among districts. With education budgets under continuing pressure, it is instructive to compare the spending patterns of districts to identify policy changes which might allocate more resources to the classroom.

Key findings:

  • On average the highest spending regions are - New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley. In the Long Island and Hudson Valley regions average spending per pupil is $20,706 and $20,230, respectively. New York City spends $20,276. Average spending per pupil in the other regions ranges from a low of $15,014 in the Mohawk Valley to $15,997 in the Southern Tier with some districts in those regions spending far less. Waverly – in the Southern Tier – spends $12,095 per pupil, for example. And Broadalbin-Perth in the Mohawk Valley spends $11,599 per pupil.
  • Within the highest spending regions there is also a high degree of variation. For example, Montauk in Long Island spends $36,700 per pupil while Floral Park spends $13,950. In the Hudson Valley, Elmsford spends $27,868 per pupil and  Wappingers Falls spends $14,210.
  • On average districts across the state spend $13,578 per pupil, or 72 percent of the total, on instructional services. This compares favorably with a national average of 64 percent. However, individual districts range from lows of 54 percent in Wyoming in the Finger Lakes and 57 percent in Garrison in the Hudson Valley, to a high of 80 percent in New York City.
  • Although the statewide percentage spent on instructional salaries is  close to the national average – 44 percent in New York versus 42 percent in the U.S., school districts in Long Island spend the highest percentage on instructional salaries – 47 percent. In Long Island, however, Valley Stream Union Free School District 13 spends the highest percentage on instructional salaries and Wyandanch the lowest – 54 percent versus 39 percent.
  • The percentage spent on fringe benefits including pensions and health insurance in New York is much higher than the national figure - 20 percent compared to 13 percent. This amounts to a per student cost nearly three times the U.S. average – $3,688 versus $1,330. In New York City, a district in which most employees make no contribution to their health insurance premiums, the fringe benefit costs per pupil reaches 24 percent. 
  • Districts that spend above statewide and regional norms on support services should consider how and why districts nearby are able to spend less. Fringe benefits, especially health insurance, should be reexamined. One way to bring down costs is to share a greater percentage of premium costs with employees.


By Elizabeth Lynam and Gal Fix