The initial difference between state education rankings and the average per-pupil spending is clear and rather obvious: States that spend more on their students tend to rank higher, and states that spend less rank lower. But if the answer were that simple, education reform would be a breeze.
So like every complex story, outliers and exceptions to the rule exist.
Take Colorado, for instance. The Centennial State ranks ninth nationally in quality of education but spent an average of $9,155 per student in 2009, putting it among the 10 states spending the least per pupil.
In comparison, Wyoming — ranked 29th in quality — spent the most of any state, averaging $18,068 per student. Alaska, ranked 41st for its education quality, spent an average of $16,174 per student. Overall, the U.S. spent an average of $11,665 per student.
But it's hard to ignore patterns that emerge. Success or so-called education-quality measurements generally are based on a formula of graduation rates, test results, and pre-K enrollment, among other factors. Of the top 10 states ranked highest for their education systems using 2009 data, four were among the nation's highest per-pupil spenders.
On the other end of the spectrum, states that spent the least per student in 2009 were ranked fairly low on education. Nevada, ranked lowest at 50, spent just an average of $8,363 on each student and is second-to-last in spending. Utah, ranked 27th, claims the lowest spending at an average of $7,217 per student.