PAWS

Star-Tribune file

Kelly Walsh High School students complete the PAWS assessment in mid-March 2010. Per-pupil spending in Wyoming schools increased 4 percent in the 2009-10 school year, an increase some say is reflected in improved test results.

Star-Tribune file

Wyoming increased its per pupil spending by 4 percent during the 2009-2010 school year, but remained sixth in the nation in that measure, new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

The state spent $15,169 per pupil, up from $14,573 in school year 2008-09. Per-student spending in Wyoming grew at a rate nearly four times faster than the nation as a whole.

Nationally, public school systems spent an average of $10,615 on each student, according to the census data, which was released Thursday. The District of Columbia ($18,667) led the country, followed by New York ($18,618), New Jersey ($16,841), Alaska ($15,783) and Vermont ($15,274).

The increase in per-pupil spending may not have changed Wyoming’s national ranking, but it’s reflected in the state’s rising test scores, said Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper.

“Our trajectory is very good,” said Harshman, who works as a teacher. “So absolutely, the investment is paying off.”

Wyoming weathered the economic downturn better than most states. That left it better positioned to fund education, Harshman added.

“We’ve been spared any cuts and have had modest increases the last few years,” he said. “While in other states, they are just getting chopped.”

Wyoming public schools became less reliant on state funding in the 2009-10 school year, census figures show. The proportion of public school revenue that came from federal and local sources increased, while the state share experienced a 9 percent decline. However, the state still contributes more than half of the revenue for public schools in Wyoming.

Nationally, revenue from state sources dropped by $18 billion, or about 6.5 percent, from 2009, according to the census bureau.

Contact Joshua Wolfson at 307-266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com. Visit http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/wolfjammies to read his blog. Follow him on Twitter @joshwolfson.

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