The NCES provides aggregated data on public school attendance and expenditures by locale for the entire nation through the 2008-2009 and 2007-2008 school years, respectively.[*] Nationally, 64 percent of all students in the 2008-2009 school year attended a public school located in a city or suburb. About 35 percent of students attend suburban schools — more than any other major locale group. About 29 percent of all public school students nationwide attend schools in a large suburb — that is, schools outside a principal city, but within an urbanized area of 250,000 people or more (see Graphic 1).[10]

Graphic 1: Percentage of Public Schools and Enrollments by Locale Subgroup, United States, Fiscal 2009[11]

Graphic 1: Percentage of Public Schools and Enrollments by Locale Subgroup, United States, Fiscal 2009 - click to enlarge

Source: Digest of Education Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics

Nationally, in the 2007-2008 school year, the city and suburban school districts spent an average of more than $10,000 per student on operating expenditures — $10,321 and $10,249, respectively. Meanwhile, the town and rural locale groups spent more than $9,000 per pupil on operating expenditures — $9,235 and $9,415, respectively. The largest disparity in per-pupil operating expenditures in 2008 among the four locale groups was between the city and town locale groups, with the city school districts spending 12 percent more on average than the town school districts. The average per-pupil operating expenditure for the entire country in 2008 was $9,992.[12]

Among the 12 locale subgroups, the large city subgroup spent the most per student on operating expenditures in 2008: $10,894 (see Graphic 2). Large suburban and remote rural subgroups also spent more than $10,000 per pupil that year. The remote town subgroup spent the least of the 12 — $9,108 per pupil, or 16 percent less than the large city subgroup.

There are other marked differences among locale subgroups, even within the same major locale category. For instance, the large suburban subgroup spent 12 percent more per pupil than the small suburban, and the remote rural subgroup spent 16 percent more per pupil than the fringe rural subgroup and 14 percent more per pupil than the distant rural subgroup.

Graphic 2: Operating Expenditures per Pupil by Locale Subgroup, United States, Fiscal 200813[13]

Graphic 2: Operating Expenditures per Pupil by Locale Subgroup, United States, Fiscal 2008 - click to enlarge

Source: Digest of Education Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics


[*] “Table 93: Public Elementary and Secondary Students, Schools, Pupil/Teacher Ratios, and Finances, by Type of Locale: 2007-08 and 2008-09.” In Digest of Education Statistics. (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, 2010), http://nces.ed.gov/programs/ digest/d10/tables/dt10_093.asp (accessed May 17, 2011). These data include charter schools.


[10] “Table 93: Public Elementary and Secondary Students, Schools, Pupil/Teacher Ratios, and Finances, by Type of Locale: 2007-08 and 2008-09,” in Digest of Education Statistics (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, 2010), http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/ dt10_093.asp (accessed May 17, 2011).

[11] Ibid.

[12] Author’s calculations based on “Table 93: Public Elementary and Secondary Students, Schools, Pupil/Teacher Ratios, and Finances, by Type of Locale: 2007-08 and 2008-09,” in Digest of Education Statistics (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, 2010), http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_093.asp (accessed May 17, 2011).

[13] Author’s calculations based on “Table 93: Public Elementary and Secondary Students, Schools, Pupil/Teacher Ratios, and Finances, by Type of Locale: 2007-08 and 2008-09,” in Digest of Education Statistics (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, 2010), http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_093.asp (accessed May 17, 2011).