New York continued to spend more per student in public schools than any other state in 2013, though the state's increases have been steadily declining, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report on public education finances released Tuesday.
New York's per-pupil spending was $19,818 in fiscal year 2013, up 1.4 percent from 2012. The national per-pupil spending average was $10,700, a 0.9 percent increase from 2012, the bureau reported.
However, New York's increase in per-pupil spending has been declining in recent years.
According to the report, New York increased its student spending 2.5 percent between 2011 and 2012, and the same percentage between 2010 and 2011. The increase was even higher in earlier years. For example, per-pupil spending rose 5.5 percent between 2008 and 2009, the report says.
Rounding out the top five states, or state equivalents, with the highest per-pupil spending averages were Alaska, at $18,175; Washington, D.C., $17,953; New Jersey, $17,572; and Connecticut, $16,631. The five with the lowest per-pupil spending averages were Utah, $6,555; Idaho, $6,791; Arizona, $7,208; Oklahoma, $7,672 and Mississippi, $8,130.
Meanwhile, per-pupil spending on Long Island's 124 public school districts was markedly higher than the statewide average -- at $22,190 -- according to a Newsday analysis of the census report's school district data. And several local school administrators said the region's higher costs were a big reason why.
"One factor is the cost of living on Long Island is far greater than the cost of living would be in Niagara County, Onondaga County and Albany County," Henry L. Grishman, Jericho schools superintendent, said.
Julie Lutz, chief operating officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES, concurred, pointing to state reports showing how purchasing power differs by region. "For example, $1,000 in the North Country buys $1,000 worth of materials, supplies and services. That same $1,000 only buys $672 worth . . . on Long Island," she said. "If you do that cost adjustment for the cost of education on Long Island, you find the cost of education on Long Island is about at the state median." That adjusted per-pupil expenditure was $15,697 in 2011-12, according to the Long Island Schools -- Cost and Outcomes 2015 report.
Lutz said that local school districts "have been doing a very good job of holding down costs. All but two districts [East Meadow and Patchogue-Medford] on Long Island put in [2015-16] budgets within the tax cap."
Grishman, whose district spent $32,851 per student in 2013, according to the census report, pointed to the scores of local students who are routinely named semifinalists and finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search and Siemens National Research competitions, as well as accolades for students in other areas, as examples of the quality of education available on Long Island.
"I would argue the point we're spending the most for the highest quality of education for our kids," Grishman said.
Ryan Ruf, associate superintendent for Eastern Suffolk BOCES, said while Long Island's "costs tend to be a little greater than the average, if you look at the robust programs in our schools, and the costs for some of these extra opportunities for our children, there's justification in being a little above the average."