Education Expenses

What it Costs to Run a School: Education Expenses


Operating a school is not an inexpensive endeavor. From public to private and charter schools, we deep dive into what it costs to educate America's youth. 

From providing a fair salary to educators and administrators to purchasing tools and supplies that students need to learn, running a school is costly; honestly, it is a small price for a well-educated American population. However, state and federal governments are constantly looking at their bottom line and evaluating how their public educational infrastructure uses the available resources. As a result, our complex and varied national school system’s budgets and requirements differ depending on location and population. Here, we will briefly examine what education expenses look like at K-
12 schools. 

Who are the decision-makers in schools? 

Educator assisting a student in the classroom.
Students in the classroom

When spending money in the classroom, the government-provided budget falls short of what teachers need to operate effectively. This means that educators are out in the marketplace buying their school supplies, from books to pencils and other tools. In fact, “80% of teachers said that they have some input and personal involvement in purchasing materials and school supplies for their classrooms.”

The principal of the school and the IT director are the ones who make the spending decisions when it comes to providing technology for use in the classroom. Regarding necessary technology for the classroom, most K-12 teachers do not have the budget or salary to obtain the tools themselves. This means that they must rely on inadequate technology provided by the administration, only 5% of which even has a technology budget in the first place. 

From school district to school district, the budget changes depending on availability. During the pandemic, it became painfully obvious which schools were able to provide their students with the resources they needed to learn remotely. According to, U.S. K-12 schools spent more than $50 billion on technology alone. However, keep in mind that these funds were not evenly distributed. 

Creating an education budget 

How do you put a price tag on information and knowledge? This is the struggle that budget makers face every year. It’s a strategic balance of using available resources with students’ changing needs. In most cases, the budgets are finalized in the spring of every year. It should be a collaborative effort, even if not every teacher can be a final decision-maker. The educational setting has many stakeholders that the final budget will impact. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 64% of school budget expenditures are on staff salaries, leaving little room for improvement or additional funding for other necessities. Educational budgets at the state level vary depending on allocations from variable sources. They are working with curricular administration to align students’ needs with the typically very restrictive budget. 

Personal teacher’s budget

Budget notebook with a calculator and pencil.
School Budget

As previously mentioned, teachers often spend their own money to supplement what could not be provided by the original budget. This is easier said than done, with teacher salaries being as low as they are. However, 92% of teachers surveyed agreed they would use it to buy classroom or school supplies if it was provided. This was especially true in the previous school years. According to Adopt a Classroom, “teachers spent an average of $750 on school supplies out of pocket during the 2020-2021 school year. The highest amount ever. 30% of teachers spent $1,000 or more on school supplies.” 

As with most education issues in America, the personal educator budget varies from state to state. The National Education Association reports that these costs can change due to location “due to a combination of factors, including students’ needs, how schools are funded in the state, the cost of living in the state, and other factors.”

 Teachers tend to spend more money on their classrooms when teaching in low high-poverty schools and use more of their own money. This is further exemplified by the fact that 91% of teachers use their own money to buy supplies in Mississippi, the lowest percentage of all states. 

Resource allocation

For public schools, government funding is extremely valuable. According to Education Data, “states contribute $357 billion to K-12 public education or $7,058 per student.” In addition, most local governments contribute $347.4 billion or $6,868 per student. Federal public education funding is equivalent to 0.32% of total taxpayer income, which is a small portion compared to other usages. 

Some funding comes from third-party supporters or public grants to help with the budget requirements of educators during the pandemic. In addition, many public groups and organizations offer districts, schools, and teachers grants and scholarships. 

No one knows how to make a dollar stretch better than teachers. So to learn more about using your current resources to the best of your ability, reach out to Agile Education Marketing today. 

Agile Education Marketing is the leading data intelligence provider focused exclusively on the education market. With us, our clients accelerate their reach into colleges, universities, K12 schools, and districts through innovative programs built on database intelligence, data services, targeted outreach, and multi-channel optimization. We offer high-quality data, flexibility, and cost-effective solutions so our clients’ businesses grow. We are a partner who delivers on your terms.

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