Spending on K-12 schools is one of California’s most important public investments. One way to evaluate this investment is to compare California’s K-12 education spending to that in other states. While such comparisons do not in themselves reflect whether California’s K-12 spending is adequate to provide students a high-quality education, they are often used to assess the state’s support for schools.
Several organizations survey state departments of education each year and publish K-12 spending figures. Depending on methodological choices made by these organizations and by others that interpret this published data, similar analyses – such as ranking California’s K-12 spending per student relative to other states – can produce different results.
This Issue Brief examines different data sources that are used to evaluate California’s level of K-12 spending, reviews the advantages and disadvantages of each, and explains why the amount that California is reported to spend per K-12 student, as well as its ranking relative to other states, varies depending on the source of this information and how it is interpreted.
This report features an easy-to-read table showing important characteristics of the major sources of national information on K-12 school spending. To download this table (PDF), click the image below.