Joey Ferguson">

Which state spends the least on education staff?

Published: Wednesday, June 13 2012 6:53 a.m. MDT

When looking for a place to move, the quality of education is an important factor in many family decisions. After college, many teachers seek good pay, but states differ on education spending. Here is a ranking of each state based on how much money is spent on education staff per capita. The figures come from U.S. Census data from 2009 on total amount spent on education staff compared to the total number of children in each state.
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Most recommended
Orem Parent
Orem, UT

Pathetic that we are so far behind everyone else. If we are going to have these kids, we need to be willing to pay for them. It sickens me when I see yet another mcmansion being built yet we can't get out of the bottom of the tank for education spending.

I am amazed that we can get the mediocre results we do in our schools given the fact that they can barely afford paper for the kids let alone quality staff.

Just think of what we could do if we raised the bar a little bit on our education spending!

The fact that we have so many immigrant kids learning english yet still score pretty well on standardized testing is a tribute to our teachers.

However, guys like Liljenquist continue to try to destroy public ed. in Utah. Did you know Liljenquist wiped out the retirement program for teachers? It was their one last benefit and he took it from them starting last year. Just pathetic. Teaching is no longer a career but an hourly job in Utah. Thanks Dan.

Pathetic indeed.

Layton, UT

Three Stingiest states:

#3 - Arizona
#2 - Idaho
#1 - Utah

I wonder if the numbers would differ if cost of living were factored into the equation, but clearly Utah's not spending what other states spend on education.


Shame on Utah's Government. The children of this state deserve better than this. Time for a change, a big change to give Utah's children the education they need. Money is needed for more staff and better funding for schools. Accountability is at the top! Shame on the priorities of Utah's Education Programs...make it right. We know you can do better.

Enterprise, UT

This looks bad, and it probably is – to a point. But there are so many factors that a simple ‘money spent per capita’ formula does not address. How does cost of living effect this? How do class sizes compare? What is the money being spent on and is it used efficiently? Does Utah spend more on teachers and less on administrators or vise versa? Don’t forget that many people raised in Utah prefer to stay – this makes staff less expensive. Etc, Etc, Etc…

This does look bad, but there are other things to consider before getting bent out of shape over this.

I for one am happy with the education my children are receiving in Utah. I am also happy with the education I received here. That being said, I would be in favor of increasing money spent on education if the money is used effectively. On the other hand, I don’t want higher taxes either.

Cedar City, UT

To avoid deceiving with statistics, the author needs to create another list and rank states by the percentage of the state budget spent on education and see what a different picture that paints. Education is important, of course, but with so many children it involves tough choices. And throwing money at a problem is not the solution. It is easy to blame the funding, but what are you willing to give up in government services? Everybody want a slice of the pie.

Kearns, UT

What our legislators don't realize is that there is a strong correlation in what businesses are willing to relocate to a state and the quality of education in the area. Many businesses do not want to move to an area that does not value public education, and our elected official have proven many times that they despise the public education system. They want to to attract more big business to the state, then they need to start supporting our educational system.

  • 8:38 a.m. June 13, 2012
  • Like (3)
  • Top comment
Waxhaw, NC

I don't see why this is a bad thing. I am from Utah, received a Utah education and don't feel that I have been hurt in anyway. I have lived in several different states and think Utah ranks among the top for education. Take a look at our universities. BYU and Utah Law Schools are both in the top 50. We are known for engineering, business and several others. We also have some of the lowest tuition costs in the nation. What this speaks to me is that we can do more with less. Not to mention we are attracting some big time business into the state, if nobody has been paying attention. Low crime rate, high standards of education; what more can we ask for? My wife was a teacher too in Utah. We lived off the teacher salary for a while, not great, but far better than other states. I currently live in NC and starting teacher salary is $8000 less than Utah's. We lived in VA and the starting teacher salary there is only $2000 more. Go figure.

Uncle Gadianton
Salt Lake City, Utah

Here's a thought, just putting it out there: Would you support a small increase in the sales tax, if the revenue were dedicated exclusively to classroom spending (teacher salary, more teachers, supplies; NOT administrator salaries or construction)?

Gallatin, MO

Maybe just maybe more are home schooled. And maybe just maybe Utah, Idaho, and Arizona see where the most effective teaching happens. It's in the homes of this great country. Money talks but it don't sing and dance and it don't walk. Keep up the good work parents keep teaching your children correct principles and let them govern themselves.

Orem, UT

And yet we're top 10 for AP passage rates. Go figure.


As a teacher, I looked into moving from Virginia to Utah. However, I was disappointed with the state of the schools. Large class sizes, run-down schools, and a general lack of technology deterred me. I, like so many of you, was educated in Utah. I left Utah after finishing elementary school and I'm sorry to say that I was at a severe disadvantage coming into the Virginia schools. Myself and my siblings were all behind and had to work hard to catch up. One of my siblings was actually recommended to be held back. I do not fault the teachers, they are doing the best they can and I give them all the credit in the world! I do fault the state standards and lack of state funding for schools. Using the CORE curriculum is not enough to stay competitive with other states; hence, so many states have their own state standards that demand more of their students than what the nationwide curriculum requires. When touring schools in Utah, I was shocked by the state of disrepair. Many of the schools had no air conditioning and very few had the technology that I find standard in classrooms in Virginia. I'm impressed with the success of so many students in Utah despite the lack of funding, but some changes need to be made before I can, in good conscience, leave my teaching job in Virginia for Utah.

USS Enterprise, UT

I think that this was purely an attack job on Utah. The measure that they are using is wrong, and doesn't mean much if you look at it in terms of reality.

They are looking at dollars spent per capita, which means that they are looking at the dollars spent per Utah resident. They are not looking at dollars spent per student or dollars per family, or any other measure that would put the demographics of each state on a more equal footing.

Another thing that many of you forget is the fact that eventhough Utah spends less on its teachers, for some reason we still do quite well on the ACT and SAT test scores, and in many cases significantly surpass those that spend twice as much as Utah.

Maybe if we broke it down to dollars spent and the outcomes, that would give us a better picture of the condition of the Utah education system.

Irony Guy
Bountiful, Utah

Interesting to see that the states with the highest perpupil funding are also the ones with the best educational performance. Utah is down in the middle. So much for the argument that money makes no difference.

Orem, UT

There is a simple explanation for Utah's last place position - it also has the highest child-to adult ratio in the nation. That is, we have more kids in school per taxpayer than any other state.

Also, more money does not mean better student performance - the two are only very loosely correlated. I've lived in many of the "Big Spender" states and their schools were abysmal!

I lived in a school district that had just 3,000 students (there are high schools with that many students) and yet the superintendent needed two secretaries! Hey, why settle for one secretary when the state is foolish enough to give you money for two, right?

Ogden, UT

1. to those of you who say that Utah's children get a great education -- how about giving the teacher's a raise for a job well done. Maybe even 8% like Doty just got.

2. Money does make a difference in serving the students of Utah who have many different needs. Putting more dollars into the system is NOT just throwing money at a problem.

3. With the present push by very wealthy corporate reformers to get rid of public education, I am no longer sure that businesses care if there is good public education available to help all children. Apparently, it would be more important for businesses to make profits off of education rather than to ensure excellent educational opportunities for ALL children, not just those from wealthy, priviledged families.

Mike Johnson
Stafford, VA

This is another in the unending series of articles on how Utah spends the least on education on a per student basis. Sometimes the articles point out that Utah students are well above average on measurable outputs (test scores, graduation rates, and college admissions). Every article results in numerous comments about how shameful it is.

But, let's recognize the demographics and how having large families skews the data. For example, I will compare Utah with Oregon, a state with 37% more people. Utah has 99% of the school age children (ages 5 to 18) (618,188; 627,139) (US Census Jul 2011 estimate) to educate, but only 65% of the number of people who pay almost all the bill (ages 25 to 65; 1,350,506; 2,090,488). The demographics means that Utah spends more as a function of state GDP, or state personal income, or state budget on education than almost all other states, but less on a per pupil basis. As long as the demographics are as they are (and the outputs are among the best in the nation), that will be the case.

Salt Lake City, Utah


This article was not done to make Utah look bad. Just about anyway you want to try and measure it, Utah is last in the country in spending on public education. In Utah income tax is designated to be spent on public education. With all the tax cuts over the last 10 years, Utahn's are spending less today on education as a percentage of their income than they were 10 years ago.

Every time a spending article comes out, people bring up large families, as if that is a legitimate excuse for not funding education. The predominant political party in the state always goes crazy when anyone talks about the rich paying and the poor getting a free pass, but when it comes to education they are ok with those with lots of kids getting a free pass while the rest of us pay. Please don't tell me about how much large families contribute, I am talking about paying state income tax which goes directly toward education and big families pay very little. Its a simple republican belief, those who use the system should pay for not so why not apply that to education.

South Jordan, UT

I have no kids, and do not plan to have any. But I am willing for my taxes to be increased to fund a better public education system. Are you?

Saratoga Springs, UT

Because the teachers in Utah do more with less. Good job teachers in Utah.

Wasatch Front, UT

To rogerdpack:

You can thanks socioeconomic status and demographics generally for our o.k. Outcome. When you adjust for demographics, our college entrance exam scores are below average. In other words, given our advantages, we should be doing much better. Said another way, children from two parent families, with similar incomes, do better in most other states.

If we don't raise standards, future Utah generations will suffer an education gap with their global peers that will leave them disadvantaged and earning/producing less. And Utah students do particularly poorly in key 21st century subjects such as math and science.

Utah parents and legislators need to wake up, raise the bar, and set their sights higher. Otherwise the state and future generations will see dramatically lower standards of living.

Mcallen, TX

Spending has become an addiction, and has led to the problems of our countries economy and weak education. Utah should be proud of their top ranking. Education does not have to be expensive to be effective. We need some common sense.

One Angry Salebarn Worker
Madison, SD

I'm guessing that most of the folks running with this data are teachers who see it as a good opportunity to wedge in more pay raise talk. But its not teacher pay or per-pupil expenditure that is the strongest correlate to student academic performance, its family income. So be happy with what you have--high performing students on a relatively efficient budget. You're doing better than the majority of states.

to comment encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.
About comments