(The Center Square) – Massachusetts increased its per-pupil funding 26% over the course of an 18-year period, even as fewer students were occupying classroom desks, according to a recently published analysis.
The Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based libertarian think tank, looked into states’ per-pupil spending allocations from 2002-20 in the new report, K-12 Education Spending Spotlight.
According to the analysis, Massachusetts was near the middle of the pack with per-pupil spending at the close of the 2019-20 school year at $21,132. In the same time period, overall statewide enrollment declined 6%.
Massachusetts’ 26% per-pupil increase puts it near the national average of 25%, with overall increases of $16,062.
Nearly half of the states across the country reported enrollment declines in the 18-year period, even as per-pupil spending increased.
“The District of Columbia and Michigan both saw over a 24% decline in students between 2002 and 2020,” Reason analysts Aaron Garth Smith and Jordan Campbell wrote in the report.
“Overall, 22 states and D.C. experienced enrollment declines between 2002 and 2020,” they added. “All these states, with the exception of Michigan, increased their total inflation-adjusted education spending during that time.”
New York notched the highest per-pupil spending increase in the 18-year period, with the rate at $30,723 in 2020, despite an overall statewide 11% decline in enrollment.
North Carolina was on the other end of the spectrum, with a flat per-pupil spending rate of $10,790, despite an 11% enrollment increase.
Smith and Campbell drew a correlation for the increased spending amid enrollment declines in the report.
“Between 2002 and 2020, the total amount spent on instructional and support benefits in the U.S. nearly doubled from $87 billion to $159 billion a year (or from $1,840 per pupil to $3,307 per pupil),” they wrote.
In another metric in the report, Massachusetts was on the high end of state-by-state comparisons for educators’ total benefit spending increases.
“A substantial cost-driver for K-12 education is spending on benefits,” Smith and Campbell wrote. The category includes retirement contributions, pension costs, health care insurance, retiree health care insurance and workers compensation.
According to the analysis, Massachusetts recorded 2020 benefit spending, per pupil, at a rate of $4,769, representing an 85% increase from 2002 figures with inflation adjustments factored in.
Hawaii recorded the highest increase – 260% – in the metric, while Wisconsin was the lowest, with a 4% increase in the same time period.
“Disaggregated figures aren’t available, but research suggests that teacher pension costs are responsible for a substantial share of the observed growth in benefit expenditures,” Smith and Campbell wrote in the analysis.