Benefits Take Larger Bite out of District K-12 Budgets

Max Marchitello
Publication Date: 
August 22, 2018

One would hope that as benefit costs increase, districts would correspondingly bump up their overall K-12 spending to ensure at least as much funding gets to classrooms as before. Unfortunately, that is not the case across the country or in the vast majority of states.

In our new report, “Benefits Take Larger Bite out of District K-12 Budgets,” we analyzed U.S. Department of Education district finance data from 2005 to 2014. In particular, we looked at overall elementary and secondary education spending and instructional spending, as well as the corresponding benefit spending.

The results are alarming. Districts spending on benefits is growing at a much faster rate than their overall education spending. As a result, fewer dollars are making it into the classroom.

We found that nationally benefit spending is up 22 percent compared with only a 1.6 percent increase in K-12 spending overall from 2005 to 2014. As a result, the share of national education funding spent on benefits jumped from 16 percent in 2005 to over 19 percent in 2014. In the aggregate, more than $11 billion fewer dollars made it to the classroom.

At the state-level, anywhere from 8 to more than 30 percent of K-12 spending is dedicated to benefits. In the end, 23 states actually send fewer dollars in the classroom in 2014 than they did in 2005 after adjusting for inflation. This problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Download the full report below.