Census Bureau Public School Finances Data for FY 2019: New York’s Sky High Spending Per Student Is Soaring Further As Enrollment Falls

The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual elementary and secondary school finances data for FY 2019 on May 18th2021, and as usual I have downloaded and compiled it.


Anyone else could do the same – any media source, any government agency, any public policy analysis organization, any politician, any candidate for Mayor of New York City or City Council – if they were willing to see what it shows.  And any could send postcards to everyone in New York City with the following information.

In FY 2019, the New York City school district spent $31,578 per student.  That was more than double the U.S. average of $15,569, and higher than the averages of $29,451 for the Downstate NY Suburbs, $22,782 for New Jersey, $19,707 for Massachusetts, and $23,686 for Connecticut.  These are high-wage high-cost of living areas on the Northeast Corridor, but adjusted downward for this factor New York still spent $24,764 per student, still 59.1% higher than the U.S. average and higher than the $23,906 for the Downstate Suburbs, similarly adjusted, and $23,622 for the Upstate Urban Counties.  The average for the Upstate Rural Counties, at $25,058, was slightly higher.  On instructional (ie. teachers) wages, salaries, and benefits alone, the New York City school district spent $18,229 per student.  That is $364,577 per 20 students, and $218,746 per 12 students.

In FY 2019, the people of New York City and State were being sued for underfunding their schools, and cheating their teachers, out of $billions of additional dollars.


The data may be found here.  


As usual, I have downloaded the “All Data Items” spreadsheet and used it to produce tables and charts.  And as usual, I intend to provide the spreadsheets with the result of the analysis in this post, and give the reader a chance to look at them prior to a second post with my views on the subject.

But if anyone wants to see only the data provided directly by the Census Bureau, even if it is more limited, they can download the “Summary Tables” spreadsheet.  The key tables, in worksheets with tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet, are numbers 12, 18, and 20. 

Table 12 shows how much each state spends on elementary and secondary education per $1,000 of the total personal income of all its residents. The relationship to income adjusts school spending for the ability of those in each state to pay taxes. You’ll see that New York State is number three in current spending, behind Alaska, where they have to fly individual teachers in to provide for children in the bush, and Vermont. These states get far more federal aid than New York does, and have extensive state and local taxes paid for by non-residents – the oil companies in Alaska, and second homes (17.5% of total housing units) in Vermont. 

For both instructional (ie. teachers) wages, salaries and benefits, New York State is number one in spending per $1,000 of personal income. And New York State has the highest state and local tax burden, per $1,000 of personal income, in the country, with New York City the highest in the state, and going up and up – even as services other than education are cut.  

Table 20 shows spending per student.  New York State is number one, and it is not close.  Spending per student went up by more than the inflation rate each year from 2014 to 2019, in part because enrollment has been dropping (as shown in Table 19).  The New York City media, while reporting the claims of those who say the city’s schools are underfunded, generally avoids reporting on the data that shows what the funding level actually is, except on Staten Island.


New York’s spending on public elementary and secondary education (pre-K through 12th grade) reached $25,139 per pupil in the 2018-2019 school year — surpassing all other states.

That is “current spending” alone, excluding capital expenditures, which I include.

Public schools in the state spent 91% more than the national average of $13,187 per pupil…And New York school spending will be pushed even higher going forward, the report stated, due to a record aid increase in the state budget, as well as stimulus funding from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan.

New York increased spending by $1,091, or 4.54%, compared to the year prior at $24,048.

Table 18 shows per student spending for the 100 largest school districts, starting with the largest – New York City.  

You’ll notice that many of the nation’s largest school districts are in the Southeast, from Maryland on down.  That is because those states have countywide school districts, and as a result public school spending is much more equal there than it is in the Northeast, with its many small school districts.  I have suggested that New York could keep its small school districts, but pay for them with countywide property taxes, if any of New York’s school spending equity hypocrites actually cared about school funding equity.

Among the 100 largest school districts New York City is number one in (current) per student spending $28,004.  The only school districts that are close are Boston at $25,653 and Washington DC at $22,406.  These are very small cities with relatively few students and large tax bases, allowing them to spend big – imagine Manhattan south of 110thStreet at its own school district.  Even so when it comes to spending on instruction, the city of Boston is 26.9% lower than New York City, while Washington DC is 47.3% lower. Not even those cities come close to what teachers receive in NYC.

Here is how New York City’s per student expenditures compared with some other cities around the country.

The $28,004 in current spending for New York City compares with $10,548 in Austin, TX, $12,639 in Denver, CO, $15,690 in Fairfax County, VA, $16,490 in Montgomery County, Maryland, and $9,464 in Charlotte/Mecklenburg County NC. These are places many people, including many parents with children, are moving to. As well as $9,888 in Miami-Dade, from which Mayor Bill DeBlasio attempted to recruit a schools chancellor, and $9,916, from which he actually did. I guess he was impressed by the education there. The city of Chicago is at $15,591.  Of course the cost of living (notably the tax burden) is lower in these areas.  But California isn’t cheap, and New York City’s $28,004 compares with $15,793 or the Los Angeles Unified School District, $14,457 for the San Diego Unified School District, and $17,228 for the San Francisco Unified School District.  And $16,543 in Seattle, and $14,130 in Portland, Oregon, which are not cheap either.

In my own data compilation, meanwhile, I do make a cost of living adjustment, based on the mean payroll per private sector employee, excluding the overpaid Finance, Insurance and Real Estate sectors, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  For New York City and the Downstate Suburbs – Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam – it is based on the average for all of Downstate New York (since many NYC teachers live in the suburbs).  The data used to make the adjustment, data that may be interesting to some in its own right, may be found in this spreadsheet.

And this chart.

One finds that in 2019 the mean private sector payroll per employee (excluding finance) in Downstate New York was $71,959, 27.5% higher than the U.S. average of $56,413.  Dividing 1/1.275, I end up multiplying per student revenues and expenditures in Downstate New York by 0.784 to get a lower, adjusted figure.  But I do not similarly adjust per student spending upward in Upstate NY, where the average private sector worker outside finance earned just $50,274, for the extent to which people Upstate struggle to pay for state and local government.  After all, some of that bill comes Downstate too. (Note that New Jersey and Connecticut private sector are poorer, compared with the U.S. average, than they were nearly two decades ago, while California workers are richer).

This is actually a very generous adjustment, because the extremely high pay of those at the very top pulls up the mean in Downstate New York.  Based on median cash income per worker by place of residence, according to the 2019 American Community Survey, the median for New York City was only 13.7% higher than the U.S. average.

The average high school dropout residing in New York City actually earned 2.7% less than the U.S. average, with high school graduates earning just 0.2% more here, those with some college or an associate’s degree earning just 7.2% more, those with a bachelor’s degree earning 18.6% more, and those with graduate degrees earning 13.3% more.  Had I used this median data, rather than the mean private sector worker data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to adjust for the cost of living, the downward adjustment for Downstate NY would have been much less.

Despite the high amount of per student spending on schools compared with large districts around the country, New York’s education advocates and teachers’ union were outraged at how low funding was in FY 2019, and felt cheated by other New Yorkers.  As a result, they claimed and the media reported, the city’s schools were, and deserved to be, so bad as a result that they violated the state constitution. Here is the amount, therefore, that current per student expenditures in these other cities could rise, and still have schools that were underfunded, teachers and other workers who were cheated, and an education that deserved to be bad.

Nearly doubling in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, and nearly tripling in Charlotte, Miami, and Houston.  Is that realistic?  If advocates for higher school funding in those cities were to convince people to massively raise taxes, and cut other services, to double or triple school spending per student, would teachers and others in education still feel resentful, entitled to more, and cheated?

Actually, a doubling of per student spending after adjustment for inflation is exactly what did happen – in New York City – from the mid-1990s, when NYC school funding per student was in fact low, to FY 2017, when it was already sky high.  As I showed when I downloaded and tabulated this data two years ago.

Last year I found that someone had arranged for New York City’s school spending to be reported to the Census Bureau as $373 million lower than the year before, even though city budget documents and financial statements showed no such reduction.  Perhaps someone later endorsed as a candidate for Mayor by NYC’s United Federation of Teachers. 

This year the data is back to normal, leading to a big jump in reported spending from FY 2018 to FY 2019.  My tabulation of the FY 2019 may be found in this spreadsheet.

It includes every school district in New York State, the U.S. average, and averages for other states and data for school districts around the country I decided to take a look at.  Averages are also provided for four regions of New York State – New York City, the Downstate NY Suburbs [Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Putman], the Upstate Urban Counties [Albany, Broome (Binghamton), Dutchess, Erie (Buffalo), Monroe (Rochester), Niagara, Oneida (Utica)], Onondaga (Syracuse), Orange, Rensselaer (Troy), Saratoga, and Schenectady), and the Upstate Rural Counties elsewhere in the state.  Adjusted data is shown with an asterisk, and the data for those areas is shown both with and without adjustment.  The per-student data as I calculated it is on the left, and the data as downloaded is on the right.  You can see the formulas to figure out what I did with the numbers.

In many cases revenues per student are shown to be higher than expenditures per student.  The revenues include money spent on charter and private schools, but the expenditures do not.  The Census Bureau’s count of students does not include those in the non-district schools, and charter and private school payments are excluded from my expenditure total.  In some cases expenditures may be higher than revenues.  The difference may be bonds issue to finance capital projects.  

Here is the same spreadsheet without the original data, with the formulas converted to numbers, and with New York State’s school districts sorted from the lowest spending to the highest.

Without adjustment for the higher cost of living/average private payroll per worker in Downstate New York, there were no New York State school districts with total per student spending below the U.S. average of $15,569 in FY 2019.  After downward adjustment there were two – the Franklin Square Unified School District at $14,242 and the Floral Park/Bellerose Union Free School District at $15,324.  

Several other Long Island districts are also among the lowest in the state – the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Union Free School District ($16,937), Brentwood Union Free School District ($17,262), Valley Stream Union Free School District ($17,437), and Elmont Union Free School District ($17,615), all after downward adjustment.  My hometown of Yonkers NY was also among the lowest at $18,641, along with Port Chester-Rye at $18,305.  All these districts would presumably have more school funding under the countywide property tax I would favor – and New York’s phony, special interest serving “progressives” and “conservatives” would never propose.

When it comes to instructional spending alone, however, all NYC state school districts were well above the U.S. average, even after adjustment, including the Franklin Square Unified School District and the Floral Park/Bellerose Union Free School District.  In slow-growth NY, there is less need for capital expenditures and interest payments to build new schools.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is the Kiryas Joel Union Free School district at an average of $330,923 per student, and Fire Island at an average of $165,188 per student.  The former consists entirely of special education students, in a district where all the other children attend private yeshivas.  The later district had only 32 students. Several districts in the Hamptons with very few students – and lots of property tax revenue from second homeowners — are also among the highest spending in New York.

The next spreadsheet includes tables that compare the per student spending for the different regions of New York State and selected other areas for FY 2019, FY 2007, and FY 1997 – with the spending levels for the prior two years adjusted upward for inflation into $2019.

And finally, this spreadsheet includes all the charts I currently plan to use in my next post analyzing this data.

As you look at the tables, the charts, the data – bear in mind what the advocates of more education spending (but not services or expectations) and the teachers unions have been quoted in the press as saying, over and over, with not one person who would wish to have a political career daring to object. Not since Governor Andrew Cuomo said that if we are number one in spending the entire state should have the best schools, and the teachers union threatened him enough to shut him up. The politicians demanding even more school spending are those who are in theory negotiating with those unions, on behalf of everyone and everything else.  Look at the level of spending in New York in FY 2019, and think about what you have been told about it.  From December 2019 – after school spending had risen even further.


Every year, the government of New York shirks its legal responsibility to adequately fund our public schools.

In 2006, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled New York was violating students’ constitutional right to a “sound and basic education” by not putting enough money into its schools. The court ordered that schools were entitled to $5.5 billion more in unrestricted state funding, known as Foundation Aid….

But year after year, state lawmakers substituted politics for the Foundation Aid Formula, shortchanging schools and hurting students who need the money most.

Now, with a looming budget deficit, schools are at risk of seeing a cut to their already insufficient resources.

Though a lack of funds undermines schools across the state, each region is impacted differently. Here are some of the different ways the missing money translates into fewer resources for students of color in three parts of New York: New York City, Long Island, and Syracuse.

By the government of New York they mean the taxpayers (New York’s taxes are supposedly too low), beneficiaries of other public services (whose funding is too high), and/or those who hold public and publicly-funded jobs in other categories (who should be paid less or laid off).  They should be make worse off to provide more funding for the schools, whose employees should be better off, in the interest of fairness, we are told.  I’ll go though the data in my next post, when I can get to it.

1 thought on “Census Bureau Public School Finances Data for FY 2019: New York’s Sky High Spending Per Student Is Soaring Further As Enrollment Falls

  1. Pingback: Comparative Public School Spending from FY 1997 to FY 2019: In New York The More They Get, the More They Feel Entitled To, and The Less They Provide in Return | Saying the Unsaid in New York

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