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Data: NY state spends most per student in nation

An undated file photo of an empty classroom.

An undated file photo of an empty classroom. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

New York State continued to spend more money per student in its public schools than any other state in 2011, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report out Tuesday.

And while the census report showed a modest 0.4 percent drop in public school student spending nationwide between 2010 and 2011 -- the first time that's happened in four decades of data collection -- spending in New York rose 2.5 percent in that period, a lower rate of increase than in past years.

New York's per-pupil spending rose 7.4 percent between 2006 and 2007, and 7.5 percent between 2007 and 2008.

New York's per-pupil spending in fiscal year 2011 was $19,076; followed by Washington, D.C., $18,475; Alaska, $16,674; New Jersey, $15,968; and Vermont, $15,925. The national per-pupil spending average was $10,560, according to census data.

Bureau officials said that eight out of nine states in the Northeast region ranked in the top 15 in student spending in 2011, a notable point for Long Island school experts.

"There's a regional concentration of higher costs across the entire Northeast," said Gary Bixhorn, chief operating officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES. And New York's downstate area, which includes Long Island, is the most populous and costliest in the state.

Long Island school districts' per-pupil spending in 2011, at $26,052, was far higher than the state average, according to the census data.

"All of the research we've done over the years substantiates the fact that the cost of education in the downstate region is higher on a per-pupil basis," Bixhorn said. "However, when adjusted for regional differences the cost per pupil is near the state median."

He added the area excels in quality schools.

Tom Rogers, superintendent of Nassau BOCES, said local school districts have "dramatically decreased their year-to-year increase in spending" since 2008, even before the state-imposed 2 percent tax cap took effect last year.

Rogers said districts have to grapple with increases in "fixed costs," such as health care and pensions, a point cited by Henry L. Grishman, superintendent of Jericho schools, where census data show per-pupil spending in 2011 was $32,428. He said enrollment declines and a rise in employee health care and pensions drove up per-pupil spending. He said efforts to hold the line on costs were being made.

J. Richard Boyes, Southampton schools superintendent, where census data said per-pupil spending was $31,791 in 2011, said while the per-pupil spending was "on the high side, we serve a unique population out here on the East End," that he said ranged from a large Hispanic population to other diverse groups.

Boyes said the district sought to maintain quality programs. "But we are mindful of costs."

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