States in Motion

States in Motion: Visualizing how education funding has changed over time

By John C. Osborn, John Fensterwald and Matt Levin

Updated on November 6, 2015


After a complete redesign and the addition of new data, we’re excited to relaunch “States in Motion.”

The project explores numerous datasets through interactive charts for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. The idea behind the project is to take a historical look at how the economic and social conditions have changed for each state over time, and how those changes have impacted investment in education and student achievement. Each section explores specific data in chart form and offers context in related text. There could be many stories in each chart; we’re telling just one of them.

The charts and context below are California-centric, meaning we mainly explored how California has changed compared with other states historically over numerous data metrics. Some of the questions going into the project include:

  • How does California’s investment in public education compare with that of other states?
  • How has that investment changed over the decades?
  • What does spending look like when compared with datasets like a state’s per-capita personal income, proportion of students in poverty, and teacher salaries?
  • And what’s the correlation, if any, between state spending on education and student test scores as well as between test scores and percentage of students in poverty?

We are using data from federal and non-governmental sources. Below are the datasets we’ve used for the charts and context in the related text. The cleaned and formatted data used for the charts can be found here. Each dataset is subject to its own methodologies and terms of use:

  • Bureau of Economic Analysis:
    • State personal income
    • Total number of full-time and part-time wage and salaried workers
    • Wages and salaries by NAICS industry code
  • Census/American Community Survey:
    • State population
  • IPUMS CPS:
    • Official poverty status of 5- to 17-year olds
  • National Assessment of Educational Progress:
    • Percent of students proficient in 4th and 8th grade math and reading
  • National Education Association:
    • Average salaries of public school teachers
    • Current expenditures for instruction, K-12 (2011-2013 only)
  • National Center for Eduction Statistics:
    • Common Core of Data, Current expense of instruction
    • Students by state

Side note about K-12 expenditure data. There are many different ways this data is collected and computed, each with varying levels of detail and methodologies. We decided to use the Common Core of Data, even though the information is several years old, because of our relative confidence in, and thoroughness of, the data over time. The National Education Association, which is often cited, bases most recent years’ data on estimates that it subsequently adjusts.

States in Motion was conceived by Jeff Camp, who made it available to EdSource for wider distribution and comment. Camp heads up the education work of Full Circle Fund, a nonprofit volunteer organization with contributing members from throughout the Bay Area. He also designed Ed100, which offers a set of primers about education in California; it’s particularly useful for parents seeking a short course on the state’s new funding and governing systems. We also thank Jonathan Kaplan, senior policy analyst for the California Budget and Policy Center, for his advice on assembling the data.

This is a living project, meaning we will be adding new charts and new data as they become available. We’ve provided code for each chart to allow for easy embedding on other websites, which you can find by clicking on “Embed Chart.” We’re also interested in your suggestions regarding the types of data we should explore or what questions to ask of the data.


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Open Chart in New TabEmbed ChartExplore Data

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Open Chart in New TabEmbed ChartExplore Data

Open Chart in New TabEmbed ChartExplore Data

Open Chart in New TabEmbed ChartExplore Data