California’s K-12 education spending per student has increased significantly since 2012-13, but continues to trail the nation as a whole. While not reflective of how much it actually costs to provide California’s students a high-quality education, rankings of state K-12 education spending are often used to assess California’s public investment in its schools. According to the most recent available information,
- In 2015-16, California ranked 41st among all states in spending per K-12 student after adjusting for differences in the cost of living in each state (see table below). California schools spent $10,291 per K-12 student in 2015-16, which is about $1,900 less than the $12,252 per student spent by the nation as a whole. California’s spending per student in 2015-16 was about $2,000 higher than it had been in 2012-13, at which point California ranked 50th in the nation.
- California ranked 37th among all states in K-12 spending as a share of the state economy in 2015-16. California’s K-12 school spending in 2015-16 was 3.29% of state personal income — a measure that reflects the size of the state’s economy — compared to 3.78% in the nation as a whole. In 2012-13, California’s K-12 school spending equaled 3.18% of state personal income — compared to 3.93% in the nation as a whole — and ranked 46th among all states. Gauging school spending as a share of the personal income received by the state’s residents can be useful because it takes into account differences in states’ wealth and thus in their capacity to support K-12 schools.