Our Education Spending Priorities

Over at TeacherPensions.org, I updated the latest figures on school district spending. The long-term trends continue: employee benefit costs continue to eat up a larger and larger share of school district budgets.

I also took a look at more recent trends. From 2008 to 2018, here’s how much school districts increased their spending on various categories in real, per pupil terms:

Total spending: +7.3 percent

Total salaries and wages: +1.2 percent

Employee benefits: +28.9 percent

Instructional salaries and wages: -0.03 percent

All these trends are pre-COVID-19 and are likely to accelerate in the coming years.

While benefit costs were the fastest-rising category of spending, schools also spent more on student supports (up 18.7 percent in real terms), general administration (up 7.7 percent), and school administration (up 9.3 percent).

To be clear, increased benefit spending has not led to benefit improvements. Most of these cost increases are due to paying down pension debts or changes in accounting rules on retiree health benefits. Teachers should be concerned that rising educational expenditures have not led to a meaningful boost in teacher salaries.

–Guest post by Chad Aldeman