The School Spending Gap, Then and Now

Concern over the sorry state of American schooling is nothing new. Back in 1939, The Advisory Committee on Education — which Gulick served after reorganizing the federal bureaucracy for FDR — examined spending disparities around the country and came away aghast. It found a 500 percent gap between the states in dollars spent per child in 1935-6.


New York came in second, at $ 74.28 a year — equivalent to $1,290 today. California beat New York by 39 cents. (Nevada came in a close third, but its population was hardly comparable.) Arkansas brought up the rear, at $12.16 — about $211 today.


Today we’re spending way more — over $19,000 per student in New York — a 15-fold increase over nearly 75 years.

But guess what? There are still huge disparities. Utah spent the least — $6,212, less than a third of New York’s figure.

And when it comes to generating private money to support local schools, one rich district in San Diego, CA., raised 80 times more than a nearby poor district.{%222%22%3A%22RI%3A18%22%2C%221%22%3A%22RI%3A9%22}

What would Gulick’s Advisory Committee on Education say to that?