While Utahns pay among the highest taxes for schools, the state still ranks dead last in the amount spent on classroom instruction per pupil - thanks to its many children.

That's according to a new study by the U.S. Census Bureau, which confirms similar findings by the U.S. Education Department.The Census Bureau said the 1987-88 national average in spending for instruction per pupil was $2,435 - with the highest being $4,051 in Alaska. Utah ranked 51st among the states and District of Columbia with just $1,503 per child.

However, Utah ranked among the top in the amount of taxes its citizens paid for instruction.

For every $1,000 in personal income, Utahns paid $33.32 for classroom instruction - ranking it seventh-highest in the nation. The national average was $25.85. The state has the largest percentage of its population in the school age groups and the smallest in the taxpaying groups, creating a disproportionate burden for taxpayers.

The national statistics are not news to State Superintendent Jay B. Taggart. "This is something we have struggled with and will continue to struggle with," he said. "But we also have been productive and will continue to be. Nevertheless, we have to recognize our taxpayers can only do so much, and they are doing a lot already."

When total spending for education - including support services and construction, not just classroom instruction - is considered, Utah climbs out of the national cellar. Barely.

It spends $2,757 per pupil - ranking it 50th and just ahead of Mississippi, which spends $2,742.

For every dollar spent on elementary and secondary schools in Utah, the study said 55 cents went to instruction, 25 cents to support services, 3 cents to construction, 3 cents to other capital outlays and 18 cents went to "other" expenses.

Taggart said the state can be proud of its efforts to put more money into the classroom and less into administrative costs.

"There are those who believe we are wasting money on overheavy administration and other frills. We don't have that luxury. We have gone through streamlining and getting rid of those frills. A greater percentage of our school money goes into instruction," he said.

For every Utah education dollar raised, 6.3 cents came from the federal government, 56.9 cents came from the state government and 36.8 cents came from local school districts.

And Utahns pay the sixth-highest taxes for total educational spending - including support services and capital costs. For every $1,000 of personal income, Utahns pay $61.13 for education - much higher than the national average of $47.16.

The report also gave a breakdown of taxation and spending in Utah school districts with more than 15,000 students.

Among those larger school districts, Salt Lake City spends the most per pupil - $3,241. Alpine School District in Utah County spends the least - $2,475.

Following is a more detailed per-pupil accounting of money spent by the larger school districts in 1988, according to the Census Bureau:

- Alpine spent $2,475 per pupil - including $1,357 for instruction, $579 for support services, $87 on capital outlays, $112 for interest on debt and $341 on other costs.

- Davis County School District spent $2,700 per pupil - including $1,484 for instruction, $621 for support services, $94 on capital outlays, $134 for interest on debt and $367 on other costs.

- Granite School District spent $2,539 per student - including $1,488 for instruction, $604 for support services, $133 on capital outlays, $78 for interest on debt and $236 on other costs.

- Jordan School District spent $2,554 per student - including $1,407 for instruction, $628 for support services, $166 on capital outlays, $65 for interest on debt and $289 for other costs.

- Nebo School District spent $2,518 per student - including $1,385 for instruction, $618 for support services, $73 for capital outlays, $68 for interest on debt and $374 for other expenses.

- Salt Lake City School District spent $3,242 per student - including $1,768 for instruction, $991 for support services, $55 on capital outlays, $29 for interest on debt and $399 for other costs.

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(Additional information)

Total spending

Amount spent per student:

Highest

1. Alaska, $9,152

2. New Jersey, $6,914

3. New York, $6,666

Average

19. Colorado, $4,481

20. Virginia, $4,373

Lowest

49. Idaho, $2,859

50. Utah, $2,728

51. Mississippi, $2,607.