As school districts across the nation scurry to find funds for the coming year, state lawmakers are trying to balance budgets and meet K-12 education needs. The national average class size is about 21 students, and the nation spends more than $800 billion on education yearly; that's about $7,700 per student. The U.S. spends more on education than other major nations including Canada, France, Japan and the U.K. Despite the high spending, American children rank lower than these other nations when it comes to test scores and retention rates. With more anticipated federal budget cuts, most states are sacrificing higher education and other budget areas in order to focus more funds on K-12 education. We've analyzed data from all 50 states and compiled a list of state class sizes, annual spending and K-12 education budget information.
Average class size: 15.3
Alabama's education committee chairman Rep. Jay Love expects enough additional revenue next year to be able to spend more on education expenses like raises for education employees or expansion of distance learning and prekindergarten programs.
Love addressed the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery on Jan. 22, 2013. He said that the state depleted rainy day funds and stimulus money during the recent economic downturn, but the budget still grew. It increased from $4.3 billion in 2003 to $6.7 billion in 2009. The current education budget is $5.4 billion.
“It was a very difficult time,” Love said, referring to trying to balance the budget given the depleted funds and lack of revenue. “We were going to have to stand on our own two feet.”
For now, Love said revenues are gradually increasing, but costs are increasing as well.
Average class size: 16.2
Alaska's governor has ignored the needs of K-12 by budgeting the same amount of money toward education for the past couple of years, said Les Gara, a Democratic state representative for Anchorage's 23rd district, in a commentary she wrote to the Alaska Dispatch.
"I am frustrated with the governor's proposal to effectively cut K-12 education funding by leaving it at the same level it was two years ago. He's recognized every one of his agencies need funds to cover the cost of inflation ... except education," he said.
Average class size: 21.4
Last year, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington D.C. ranked Arizona sixth in the biggest drop of per pupil funding out of the 48 states that were studied. Arizona went down $783 per pupil from fiscal year 2008 to 2012, according to Arizona Central.
This January, the Alabama Court of Appeals ruled that the legislature must pay for the complete base education, which hasn't happened for three years because the state hasn't adjusted for inflation, according to Arizona Central. Because of the ruling, the legislature must pay an additional $80 million for education funding annually.
Average class size: 14.1
Arkansas's Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said in 2012 that Arkansas would be one of three states that didn't cut education spending. He also said that schools in Arkansas will get an extra $60 million.
In this year's State of the State speech, Gov. Mike Beebe said he wants to focus more on increasing school funding as well as educational opportunities for military families. Arkansas is also one of the few states with plans to increase funding to higher education.
Average class size 24.1
Gov. Jerry Brown recently appeared at the California State University Board of Trustees meeting to hear plans for the 2013-14 budget, online education and cuts in administrative expenses.
California is overcoming its budget deficit problems, but "Sacramento is legally obligated to pay many billions of dollars withheld from schools, local governments and healthcare providers as lawmakers struggled repeatedly to balance the books," according to the Los Angeles Times.
That said, next year's proposed budget would bring $2.7 billion more to K-12 education and community colleges.
Average class size: 17.4
Colorado lawmakers are debating proposed tax breaks that could potentially affect K-12 funding.
The Senate Democrats have proposed a package that would offer tax breaks for about 370,000 low-income families. The House and governor's office disagree.
"We appreciate the spirit behind the proposal, namely, to help low-income Coloradans weather a tough economy, but we have concerns about whether this proposal would negatively impact funding for K-12 and about cost impacts on the budget," said Gov. John Hickenlooper's spokesman Eric Brown. "In coming weeks we will work with the House and Senate leadership to see if there is any consensus on moving the bill."
Average class size: 13
Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy spared K-12 and secondary schools from budget cuts last year, but he cut back on spending to universities, according to the Connecticut Mirror.
"Yes, this budget asks our colleges and universities to step up just as the rest of state government must, but we are preserving their independence," Malloy said.
Average class size: 14.5
Last year, the state's average per pupil expenditure was $11,340. This average was based on how much each district spent. The average decreased from $12,100 in 2009.
This year, Gov. Jack Markell reassured school districts that education reform is first on his mind. He proposed a budget that would provide funding for additional after-school and summer programs to help combat juvenile crime and drug and alcohol abuse. Staff members of those programs would be trained in suicide prevention, Markell said.
Average class size: 15.1
Florida Gov. Rick Scott allotted $1 billion in additional funding to K-12 public schools in this year's budget.
In his proposed budget for next year, the governor would give teachers a $2,500 pay raise and increase K-12 education funding
"I can think of no better investment for our state than investing in those teachers who work on the frontline of Florida’s future every day by teaching our children. I am asking the legislature to join with me in supporting my 2013 budget request that will provide every Florida full-time public classroom teacher the ability to receive a $2,500 pay raise.
“My proposed budget will include $480 million in funding to support a $2,500 pay raise for full-time public classroom teachers in our state," Scott said in a statement. "This funding will support districts’ ability to provide a $2,500 teacher pay raise, plus the cost of related benefits. This teacher pay raise is in addition to an overall increase in education funding that will be included in our full budget proposal."
Average class size: 14.9
Georgia classrooms are more crowded than ever, according to a Georgia Budget and Policy Institute study. The survey found that two in three school districts had to cut down on the amount of school days, and six out of 10 school districts reported increasing class sizes.
Average class size: 15.8
Hawaii's per pupil spending last year ranged from $4,073 to $13,771 for elementary schools and $3,875 to $45,272 for middle and high schools.
Hawaii's public schools suffered $16.4 million in cuts in last year's budget. This year, Hawaii lawmakers proposed giving $850 million to the Race to the Top program, an education reform plan for the state.
Average class size: 17.6
Idaho allocated $139 million less to public schools this year than it did in fiscal year 2009.
This year's budget raised the minimum teacher salary to $30,500, but many Idaho education employees still work below federal poverty guidelines, according to the Idaho Education Association.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has proposed a three percent increase to public school funding next year. The proposed budget calls for spending $1.31 billion and includes about $15 million to restore minimum salaries for teachers, according to the Idaho Statesman.
Average class size: 15.7
It took two tries for Illinois to approve this year's budget for K-12 schools, which contained cuts from last year's budget. This year, there was less funding for pre-school programs and free and reduced price meals.
Gov. Pat Quinn said that $400 million may be cut from the state's upcoming education budget, but the Education Advisory Board urges lawmakers to budget an additional $4.7 billion for school aid.
“While the EFAB recognizes the dire financial position of the State of Illinois, the lack of adequate funding for basic education is a failure of the state’s moral and fiduciary responsibilities,” the board said in a report.
Average class size: 18
Indiana's Governor Mitch Daniels recently created House Enrollment Act No. 1003, which some call the largest school voucher program in the nation.
Families who qualify for free and reduced lunches are now eligible for 90 percent of state tuition support. The vouchers will be capped until the end of this school year. After that they will be unlimited.
Average class size: 14.3
According to The Huffington Post, Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad has planned a $187 million push on state education for the coming year.
"We have many good schools with committed educators, but they are stuck in a system designed for the 20th century, not the 21st century. I am ready to invest significant resources into these educational reforms, which truly have the power to dramatically raise achievement," Branstad said. "I do not believe we should spend even one minute discussing additional resources to prop up our current educational structure until we have first agreed on the reforms our children need."
Average class size: 14
This year's state budget plan called for major tax cuts, which could lead to education budget cuts. The proposal didn't please everyone in Kansas.
"This session is the beginning of devastating school cuts, social service cuts and critical government services that aren't going to be able to be delivered in the same capacity as they have," said Rep. Paul Davis.
Average class size: 16.0
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear admitted that his proposed 2012-2013 budget was "inadequate for the needs of" the state's people. The budget cut $286 million in funding, including $50 million from K-12 schools.
This year, Kentucky officials are worried about anticipated federal cuts.
Kentucky's 174 school districts could lose $61 million per year in federal supports over the next 10 years if Congress doesn't reach a compromise on spending cuts. This would set back Kentucky's progress in education reform, said Stu Siberman, director for the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.
"A big bulk of those federal dollars go to support those in poverty," Silberman said. "A cut on top of what we are already dealing with will create a major setback for this state. This is not even three steps forward, one step back; it's all backwards."
Average class size: 14.3
Louisiana has avoided cutting money from K-12 schools, but Louisiana has cut more than $625 million from state colleges and universities in the past four years, according to State Commissioner of Education Jim Purcell.
“A lot of states are coming out of the recession and starting to reinvest in higher education,” Purcell said. “We are not one of those.”
Average class size: 12.3
Despite Maine's increased spending on schools, enrollment rates have dropped.
Maine's per-pupil spending increased from $9,356 to $11,06 over the past six years, but K-12 enrollment numbers decreased by 23,000 from 2002 to 2011.
The state government has also been increasing property taxes to cover budget deficits, to the dismay of taxpayers. Some districts were trying to cover budget deficits as large as $2.9 million.
“It’s becoming a catastrophe for any town to absorb," said Hal Ferguson, a selectman from Otisfield.
Average class size: 14.6
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley proposed a $37.3 billion state budget for fiscal year 2014. Nearly half of the proposed budget would go to state education funding.
"The governor's presentation of the budget is basically him patting himself on the back. A lot of things in there I'm certain are good, but we're going to have to dissect it at this point and time," says Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick County.
Average class size: 13.9,
Governor Deval Patrick proposed last week to sharply increase public education funding by more than $2.5 billion over the next four years. The first step would be a $550 million increase for next year and it would grow to an additional $1 billion annually by 2017.
“We’ve got to stop being afraid of that conversation,” Patrick said. “We’ve got to stop asking third- and fourth-graders and preschoolers to wait until some magic perfect time. What we do right now assures that we have a stronger future. And I’m going to propose right now that we invest in that stronger future.”
Average class size: 17.9
Michigan has 41 districts that have posted budget deficits in recent years.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to propose budget priorities in early February, such as building a rainy day fund and more spending on K-12 schools. Snyder's first budget cut education funding, but last year's budget raised it a little.
"We don’t have the revenues finalized. But we’re hopeful that we can make another small step in those (education) areas this year,” said John Nixon, Michigan's budget director.
Average class size: 15.9
With Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's history of calling for higher taxes, some think his budget proposal this week could have adverse affects on his political future. Minnesota faces a projected $1.1 billion budget deficit.
"We really see this as 'Minnesota's moment,'" Bob Hume, Dayton's deputy chief of staff, told minnesota.publicradio.org. "Minnesota's fiscal house has been torn down to its foundation. As we go into this budget on [Jan.] 22nd, when the governor launches his budget, it's going to be a real and new and significant step to building that back."
Average class size: 15.2
Mississippi lawmakers seem to be conservative with upcoming budget changes. Legislators proposed spending $5.5 billion next year, which is $200 million less than this year's budget.
Gov. Phil Bryant says the legislators' draft is a good starting point, but Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves from the budget committee says the plan, which he helped write, is more than that.
"If there were no changes to be made, the vast majority of agencies, if managed properly and appropriately, could deliver the same level of services that they're currently delivering and would be fine," Reeves said.
Gov. Bryant vowed to focus on education reform with this upcoming budget, but education advocates remain skeptical, considering the state's history of some of the worst school performance results in the U.S.
Average class size: 13.8
Missouri legislators have just begun their yearly budgeting process, and the Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing this week to hear public testimony on education issues.
Gov. Jay Nixon said last week that he wants Missouri children to spend more time in the classroom. He wants to bring Missouri up to the national average by adding six days to the state's academic calendar.
"To stay competitive in today's economy, Missouri's students should be in the classroom as much as their peers in other states," said Nixon, a Democrat. "Extending Missouri's school year by just six instructional days will bring our state in line with the national average while increasing educational opportunities for every student."
Average class size: 13.7
Montana lawmakers are proposing a bill to change the way taxes are allocated into the state budget because they believe eastern Montana school districts aren't getting a fair portion of state oil and gas money.
The Montana Department of Revenue collects roughly $215 million per year in gas and oil taxes, half of which goes to counties and school districts.
Rep. David Halvorson wants school districts to be able to keep 150 percent of oil and gas taxes they don't spend, versus the 130 percent they get to keep now. If this bill passes, the state's general fund will lose $1.4 million a year to local school districts.
Average class size: 13.4
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman proposed a budget for next year that would give five percent more state aid to K-12 education and to K-12 special education.
About 100 Nebraska school districts rely on local property tax revenue and receive no state aid, but all school districts with special education students can receive state funding for special education.
Even with this increase, school districts may still have trouble meeting students' needs. One district spent $800,000 to give all their students iPads this year.
Average class size: 20.0
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval called for a public education spending increase of $135 million.
That increase includes $20 million to implement full-day kindergarten at 46 more at-risk schools to help young children become more English proficient. Of that, $2 million would go toward a program devoted to recruit and train better teachers in Nevada.
Gary Peck, director of the Nevada State Education Association, said the proposed budget isn't enough.
"The funding increases he is proposing are inadequate to meet the challenges our kids are facing," Peck said. "It just reinforces our commitment to doing everything we can to ensure our ballot initiative is enacted to fix our broken tax structure and create a dedicated source of funding for K-12 education."
Average class size: 12.7
The New Hampshire State Board of Education has for four months refused to approve any more charter schools until the legislature gives them more funding.
“I know I speak on behalf of the entire board that on a conceptual basis, we are in favor of charter schools,” Chairman Tom Raffio said at the board’s first meeting of 2013. “The issue of funding, though, the new charter schools, the yet-to-be-authorized charter schools — that has not changed.”
In September, the board voted to not approve new charter schools, saying that the board was already short on money for the 18 already-approved schools and couldn't afford to approve any more.
"It's in their interest to fix this problem… The state looks amateurish and backwards because it can't get this money out to people," said Matt Southerton, director for the N.H. Center for Innovative Schools.
Average class size: 12.7
New Jersey has cut funding to higher education by nearly eight percent, but the state will focus money toward K-12 education.
The state board of education has heard proposed budgets from the different districts in the state. One district wants to replace a roof and an air conditioning unit as well as add a bowling team to the high school.
Average class size: 15.1
New Mexico's Legislative Finance Committee released its 2014 state budget recommendations last year. The committee has recommended $118.6 million in increased funding for education. An estimated $91 million of that would go to public K-12 schools.
Average class size: 12.9
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented a $137 billion state budget that could increase to $143 billion after federal aid for Superstorm Sandy recovery.
The governor promised that his budget would increase education aid by 4.4 percent and would fund longer school days. Cuomo's budget is now being heard by the state legislature.
“He wants to loosen the purse strings a little bit,” said Elizabath Lynam, director of state studies for the Citizens Budget Commission, of Cuomo’s budget plan. “It isn’t like anyone is going to say he let the train run off the tracks, but he has some things he wants to spend money on and he is going to do it.”
Average class size: 15.2
According to The Associated Press, the North Carolina Generat Assembly will be working to write a two-year budget before July 1. That budget will have little money for new initiatives, the report said, and extra revenue will largely go to pay for teaching additional students in the public schools and the University of North Carolina system, as well as for higher Medicaid costs.
Average class size: 11.4
North Dakota Gov. Mark Dayton proposed a budget that would increase taxes by about $2 billion over the next two years and would put $118 million in new public school funding, which breaks down to an average of $52 per student, and $125 million more for special education.
“I made a commitment to increase state [education] support every year; no excuses, no exceptions," Dayton said.
Average class size: 16.2
Cutbacks in Ohio have led to fewer teachers in many Ohio districts.
According to state records, the number of full-time public school teachers fell by nearly 6 percent over the past decade.
The Ohio Association of School Business Officials is worried about what the new budget will hold. Gov. John Kasich refuses to reveal details of the new budget until Feb. 4.
Barbara Shaner, executive director of the group, said schools lost $1.6 billion in Kasich's first two-year budget, and she wants to see that money returned to the schools.
"We’d like to make sure students have what they need going forward," she said.
Average class size: 16.0
Three Oklahoma school districts went over the legal limit for administrative spending, according to the state Education Department. Cameron Public Schools in LeFlore County spent the most, exceeding the limit by more than $58,000.
"The actions of the state and the state department of education have created an unfair atmosphere for small school districts to operate in," one superintendent said in a letter.
Average class size: 20.3
Oregon Education Chief Rudy Crew said in an address last week that he hopes to improve the efficiency of state public education. He said he wants to cut back on funding for unneeded education agencies that provide services like technical support.
He also said the state will focus on ensuring preschoolers are prepared for kindergarten, ensuring third-graders are successful readers and ensuring that communities create a college-going culture.
“For the longest time, public education has been about being able to take and pass a test,” Crew said. “Testing is not the reason we commit to learning. It’s not the reason we invest our time and effort.”
Average class size: 13.8
In the 2009-10 school year, a federal stimulus boosted Pennsylvania education funding, so the state cut back on its own education spending. Now, that stimulus has been used up, and the state must deal with a $500 million education spending decrease.
“State support for K-12 public education went down quite a bit a couple of years ago. It was backfilled with federal funds and then grown with federal funds on, in essence, a credit card that was going to go away," said Education Secretary Ron Tomalis.
Average class size: 12.8
Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee's proposed budget is under scrutiny as homeless advocates complain that the budget wouldn't provide enough support for homeless people. However, the budget would increase public education funding by $30 million and spend an extra $8 million on higher education to prevent tuition increases.
Average class size: 16.1
A proposed bill would provide state funding for a trained police officer at every public school in the state.
If passed, the bill would cost the state between $30 million and $40 million per year, but it would free up the money that some schools have been spending to employ police officers in their schools.
Average class size: 13.3
Education Week gave South Dakota a "D+" in a report that considered state's education quality based on criterion like grades and funding. South Dakota does not have a state pre-K education strategy. State Representative Paula Hawks disagreed with the report, which she found unfair.
"We're spending less money and putting less money into our educational priorities and our teachers are still doing great things in the classroom," Hawk said. "They're not just talking about student performance, they're also talking about financing, support from the state. And yes, we do come in dead last when it comes to financial support and teacher pay."
Average class size: 14.8
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has kept his budget plans quiet and won't reveal any details until his state of the state address this month. But he has hinted that he plans to introduce measures to create a school voucher program.
There should be extra money to go around this next year since the state raised about $560 million more in tax revenue than it used last year. However, much of that extra money is already spoken for.
"This is actually our hardest budget year. The requests always swamp the ability to meet those requests," Haslam said.
Average class size: 14.7
Republican legislators in Texas have called for slight increases in spending for Texas public schools.
The House and Senate want to see $89 billion put toward public schools over the next two years. This budget would be a 1 percent increase from this year's budget. Some lawmakers say the state needs a rainy day fund for education.
“We’re going to have to set aside some money, and cover whatever decision comes," said Lt. Governor David Dewhurst.
Average class size: 22.8
Utah Senator Lyle Hillyard, co-chair of the executive appropriations committee, said this week that Utah will have no tax increase, but spending will continue to be limited because of uncertainty about federal funding.
If the state is able to get more state funding, it may be able to cover the increase of enrollment at public schools and the $25 million it spent over-budget last year.
Average class size: 11.6
Gov. Peter Shumlin said he hopes to focus more on improving public education over the next few years because he sees that as the path to improving Vermont's economy.
"We spend more than 50 percent above the national average. And K-12 education spending has grown faster in Vermont over the last decade than any other state in America, but the following simple fact should alarm all of us: with the vast amounts of money we spend per pupil in Vermont we have failed to move more low-income Vermont kids beyond high school," Shumlin said.
Average class size: 17.6
Virginia lawmakers have not been focusing on important issues, Gov. Robert McDonnell said recently. The state Senate recently passed an unexpected bill to redraw Senate district in favor of Republicans.
"I'm not happy about the things that have happened. What I've said is that this session should be about education and transportation, not redistricting and other things," he said.
Average class size: 19.4
Washington's new governor, Jay Inslee, said he wants to put $1 billion in new money into K-12 public schools, but he can't guarantee it will all come this year.
"My focus is job creation. I'm going to focus like a laser beam on the things a governor can do," he said.
Average class size: 13.9
There has not been much revealed in West Virginia about proposed budgets, but Del. Denise Campbell, D-43rd District, said he is ready to tackle education issues this legislative session.
"I am currently working closely with other legislators and citizens' groups to create legislation to strengthen our education system," he said.
Average class size: 15.1
State Senator Luther Olsen is pushing fellow lawmakers to add more funding to education. He wants there to be an extra $100 million in school aid the first year and another $200 million for the second year.
But most of the Republican lawmakers worry about accomplishing that goal while they are trying to decrease income taxes.
Average class size: 12.5
A Wyoming House committee approved a bill that would change control of the state's education department from the state superintendent of public instruction to a director appointed by the governor.
The superintendent would remain as a public position, but would lose most duties to the director. While public positions remain under debate,
Wyoming does seem to be making progress toward education reform. The National Journal reported that Wyoming had increased education funding by 30 percent.