Many Utahns are familiar with the fact that Utah ranks last in per pupil spending. But what do other states buy with their additional per pupil expenditures? How does Utah’s lower spending level impact schools and learning? This report looks deeper into the differences in education spending between Utah and the U.S. average, comparing specific spending categories, such as instruction, teacher salaries, pupil support, and administration. The report also compares Utah to five demographic peer states identified in a 2007 report comparing test scores. Major findings include:
- Utah spent an average of $5,437 per pupil in 2005-2006, compared to $9,138 nationally. The gap between Utah and U.S. average per pupil expenditures equals $3,702. Utah’s five peer states (identified in Utah Foundation’s 2007 report as being demographically similar to Utah) spent between $7,700 and $10,000 per pupil.
- About half the difference between Utah and the U.S. in average per-pupil spending is accounted for by Utah’s large class sizes and comparatively lower teacher pay. Research suggests that under the correct conditions, higher pay and smaller classes can increase student achievement.
- Lower spending on support services (pupil and staff support, transportation, administration, and maintenance) accounts for another 42% of the U.S.-Utah spending gap. This spending difference is partly explained by Utah’s large schools and districts. Most research on school size and district size points to advantages in school climate and student performance with smaller sizes, particularly for poor and minority students.
- Utah school officials believe that lower spending on instruction, pupil support, and staff support negatively impacts student performance. They also feel that Utah’s lower spending on administration, maintenance, and transportation are not generally harmful to education outcomes.
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