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Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

January 29, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Western states at the bottom in per-student spending

Mark Weber / Op Art

Mark Weber / Op Art

A new report by Education Week provides a look at the big growth in school spending since the 1970s.

Across the nation, nearly all states doubled or tripled the amount of money spent on public schools from 1970 to 2010, with even the lowest growth, in Utah, going from $3,344 per student to $6,237 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

But the growth has been uneven, the national newsmagazine reported.

Per-pupil spending has increased most in nine states and the District of Columbia, and seven of those states are in the northeastern United States. Seven of the 10 states where spending has grown the least are in the West, and Washington is one of them.

Washington spent $4,794 per student in the 1969-70 school year, according to Education Week. In the 2009-10 school year, that had grown to $9,497 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

In comparison, the six top states spent $15,000 or more per pupil.

The newsmagazine also noted that school-funding lawsuits, like Washington’s McCleary case, have been a factor in seven of the nine states with the biggest spending increases. In Washington state, lawmakers are still wrestling with how to increase school funding to the level our  Supreme Court has ordered.

In a separate report on Education Week’s analysis, Reid Wilson at the Washington Post also looked at how the states with the biggest spending increases are doing academically. He found a pattern there, too.

Looking at the 10 states that spend the most per student, six did better than the national average in 4th- and 8th-grade reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Washington appeared to be one of few states where spending was below average, but NAEP results were consistently above average.

Comments | More in News | Topics: education funding, McCleary decision, NAEP

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