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Good Question: How Much Do We Spend On Students?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - For many kids around the state, it was back to school on Tuesday -- another year of homework and those dreaded pop quizzes.

So that had some WCCO viewers wondering: How much do we spend on students? And where does all that money go? Good Questions.

In 2013-14 Minnesota schools, on average, spend $11,000 per student per year. That ranks the state 22nd in the nation but far behind the leader: New York at $19,818.

Minnesota measures its expenditures per pupil using only the general fund, which is about 85 percent of a school's funding. Food, community service, building construction and debt service are considered separate funds.

Within the state, districts differed in their levels of spending. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, the five districts who spent the most were:

1) Red Lake Public Schools: $21,037

2) Cass Lake-Bena Public Schools: $14,752

3) St. Paul Public Schools: 14,302

4) Minneapolis Public Schools: $14,131

5) Winona Area Public Schools: $13,496.

Of the money that's spent in the general fund, about two-thirds goes to teachers and another 8 percent to teacher and student support.

"Over 70 percent of our money goes right into the classroom, whether it be direct teacher support, intervention, paraprofessionals, pupil support or counseling," said David Law, superintendent of the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

His district spends right about the state average per pupil, but spends a lower percentage of administration.

"We're so big with 37,000 students that we can keep administrative costs very small, proportionately," he said.

Of the remaining portion of the general fund, facilities, operations and maintenance make up 13 percent, transportation is 6 percent, district level administration 5 percent and school administration 4 percent.

Law says where the money goes is decided by a combination of district recommendations and school board approval.

"I want people to hear that we're trying to be respectful of spending within our means and we're a healthy district because of it," he said.

In 2013-14, Minnesota schools spent just over $12 billion. The majority of that funding (83 percent) came from the state, while 13 percent came from local sources and 4 percent from federal sources.

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