Per pupil spending up 19% in the past 20 years in South Carolina

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Combined local, state and federal per pupil spending in South Carolina has increased nearly 19% since 2001, according to a new education spending database published by the Palmetto Promise Institute and Acuitas Economics.

Per student funding in 2001 averaged $12,287. Since then, the average combined per student has risen to $14,595. The database allows users to compare education spending by district with overall student achievement.

The database shows growth in student achievement has not been matched the increase in funding over the past 20 years.

Only 37% of eighth-graders are able to perform on grade level in math, according to the database, and 50% of third-graders can perform on grade level.

A recent report by the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee found that by spring, 7 out of 10 third- through eighth-graders in South Carolina will not be able to read or do basic math on grade level.

K-12 education spending makes up for about 40% of South Carolina’s state spending each year. South Carolina spent $4.8 billion on K-12 education last year, matched by $10.4 billion in federal and local spending.

“K-12 education represents 40% of South Carolina’s general fund appropriations – the largest single category – yet only a handful of people could tell you how much we spend, or more to the point, how it is spent,” Palmetto Promise Institute President Ellen Weaver said. “That must change if South Carolina is to ever deliver effective education opportunity for every student, regardless of their income or zip code.”

South Carolina ranked 47th for fourth-grade reading in 2019 on the Nation’s Report Card, published by the National Assessment of Educational Programs.

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