The Census Bureau publication, “Public Education Finances” is a good starting point if you want to compare spending on public schools in Kansas to spending across the country. The full document is 124 pages as an Adobe Acrobat file, and there are some sizable Excel files. (One file is 14MB, another is 33MB). You can find the portal to the report here.
From a national perspective, Kansas spends, overall, like the average state, but spends more than the average state when compared with its total spending.
According to the report (table 8: Per Pupil Amounts for Current Spending of Public Elementary-Secondary School Systems by State: 2007-08),
- Kansas ranked 27th in the country in “current” spending at $9,967 per student. Current means it excludes capital costs such as new or remodeled buildings.
- Kansas was 22nd in the country in spending on instruction, at $5,922 per student. This category included salaries and wages as well as benefits.
- Kansas was 30th in the country in spending on support services, at $3,296 per student. This category is further divided into pupil services, staff services, general administration, and school administration.
- Kansas was 19th in the country in spending on general and school administration (combined as one category), at $818 per student.
The report includes the Districts of Columbia as a state, so the median “state” would be 26. The numbers do not, as far as I know, take into account for the fact that the cost of living is higher on the Eastern seaboard than in the Midwest.
If you want to consider where education fits in with other public priorities, then you have to turn to the report 2008 Annual Surveys of State and Local Government Finances (you’ll find a press release, which offers a few highlights of the report, here.) According to Table 3 of that report, on average,
States and local governments dedicated 29 percent of their spending to elementary and secondary education.
- Vermont spent the most, at 37 percent of its budget.
- Alaska spent the least, at 23 percent. (The District of Columbia was even lower, at 17 percent)
- Kansas spent 32 percent of its budget on schools, which ranked it 16th among the states.
There are probably several reasons why a state could rank where it did, but that’s a question for another day.