States with the Most Crowded Schools
Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 17.56
Total education spending (2017): $7,857,707,829
Dollars spent per student: $10,548.25
Population per square mile: 95.4
National rank for population density: #27
Alabama kicks off the list as the tenth state in the nation with the most crowded schools. Although Alabama does not have a particularly high population density, its pupil/teacher ratio is 12 percent higher than the national average. With an education budget 33 percent lower than average, a potential factor in Alabama’s overcrowded schools could be its reduced allocation of financial resources in state education.
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Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 17.69
Total education spending (2017): $18,889,660,740
Dollars spent per student: $12,356.96
Population per square mile: 175.0
National rank for population density: #17
While its lakes may be great and vast, Michigan’s schools are ninth-most crowded in the nation. Even though Michigan spent 35 percent more on education than the national average in 2017, its pupil/teacher ratio exceeds the norm by 13 percent. The case of Michigan demonstrates that spending more money on schools is not an all-encompassing solution to improving education quality — school boards have to ensure that the implementation of those funds is strategic.
Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 18.17
Total education spending (2017): $15,568,032,786
Dollars spent per student: $14,130.78
Population per square mile: 104.9
National rank for population density: #25
Washington is eighth in the ranks for states with the most overcrowded schools in the United States. Washington stands as the median state in terms of population density, as it ranks 25th amongst all states. Despite this average statistic, its pupil/teacher ratio, which is 15 percent above the national average, indicates that schools in Washington have room for improvement when it comes to comfortable classroom sizes. Even with above-average spending on education, Washington is still riddled with overbooked classrooms and potentially overwhelmed teachers.
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Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 18.29
Total education spending (2017): $8,869,267,567
Dollars spent per student: $12,382.18
Population per square mile: 107.1
National rank for population density: #23
Our second deep south state on the list, Louisiana takes the seventh spot for states with the most crowded schools. Louisiana’s education expenditures, which were 29 percent below average in 2017, might be a potential contributing factor in its 16 percent above-average pupil/teacher ratio. With a relatively average population density, ranked 23rd overall in the nation, schools in Louisiana may be affected by the relatively lower education expenditures, leading to a deficit in the number of resources available per student.
Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 18.54
Total education spending (2017): $2,501,907,356
Dollars spent per student: $8,418.262
Population per square mile: 19.5
National rank for population density: #44
Idaho presents a fascinating case in the top ten states with the most crowded schools. Idaho has a pupil/teacher ratio that exceeds the national average by 17 percent, making it the sixth-highest in the nation. However, Idaho is one of the least densely populated states, with only about 19.5 people per square mile. As a sparsely populated state, its rate of classroom overcrowding is surprising. Likely due to its low population density, Idaho’s spending on education is the farthest below the national average compared to the other states on this list — at approximately $2 billion, Idaho spent about 80 percent less. Even with fewer students overall, Idaho’s high volume of overcrowded classrooms follows the finding that population density is not necessarily a contributing factor to school overcrowding.
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Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 20.21
Total education spending (2017): $7,374,587,579
Dollars spent per student: $12,737.93
Population per square mile: 40.9
National rank for population density: #39
Oregon, the second Pacific Northwest state on the list, has the fifth-most crowded schools in the country. While much less densely populated than its next-door neighbor Washington, at 40.9 people per square mile versus Washington’s 104.9, Oregon’s pupil/teacher ratio is 11 percent higher than Washington’s and exceeds the national average by 24 percent. Oregon spends approximately 9 percent less per student than average, which potentially affects classroom overcrowding. The disparity between population density and pupil/teacher ratio thus confirms the finding that school overcrowding is more likely a product of how educational environments are built, rather than the sheer number of overall students.
Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 21.45
Total education spending (2017): $4,823,412,451
Dollars spent per student: $10,181.47
Population per square mile: 25.4
National rank for population density: #42
The flocking to Las Vegas casinos in the midst of a pandemic is not the only thing Nevada should be concerned about. Its schools are the fourth in the nation for being the most overcrowded, despite the fact that the state is relatively sparsely populated. Similar to the case of Idaho, Nevada’s spending patterns on education are remarkably lower than the national average by 61 percent, likely due to its low population density. Nevada’s schools are nevertheless cramped, with a pupil/teacher ratio that’s 28 percent above the national average.
Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 22.75
Total education spending (2017): $5,694,370,716
Dollars spent per student: $8,630.437
Population per square mile: 35.3
National rank for population density: #41
The third state on the list, Utah, follows a similar trajectory to the established pattern of many of these top ten states with most crowded classrooms. Utah is located in the southwestern region of the United States, has a relatively low population density, and below-average state education expenditures. Even though Utah may not have been an epicenter for the novel coronavirus epidemic, its case count saw a spike in June and kept a steady increase into July, according to state government estimations. Utah better be cautious going into the fall with their decisions to reopen schools — it seems that adequate social distancing would be extra difficult in their classrooms, where the pupil/teacher ratio exceeds the national average by 32 percent.
Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 23.08
Total education spending (2017): $85,059,052,718
Dollars spent per student: $13,481.88
Population per square mile: 246.1
National rank for population density: #11
California is somewhat of an unexpected outlier — it has the highest population density out of any other state on the list, which contradicts the pattern of sparsely-populated states having the highest pupil/teacher ratios. In this way, California actually may concede with the seemingly logical yet actually inaccurate assumption that more students naturally lead to more crowded classrooms. California spends close to the national average on each student, so the Golden State may be a case of simply having a lot of students to account for. California was praised for its handling of the coronavirus early on in the pandemic, so perhaps the state will revamp its strong public health measures come fall.
Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 23.53
Total education spending (2017): $10,279,378,658
Dollars spent per student: $9,232.148
Population per square mile: 58.3
National rank for population density: #33
Arizona has the most crowded classrooms in the nation. Its pupil/teacher ratio is 35 percent higher than the national average, despite having a population density 87 percent below the nationwide mean. Arizona’s spending per student is one-third below the national standard. According to state officials, Arizona hospitals have been steadily approaching capacity since March. It’s clear that healthcare resources are becoming increasingly strained, and reopening schools in the fall could only serve to exacerbate the rates of COVID-19.
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