The U.S. Census Bureau has been tracking state spending on public education annually since the 1970's, but in all of that time there had never been a year in which spending on public education went down.

According to information published by the U.S. Census Bureau on May 21, 2013, the trend in ever-increasing spending changed in 2011. Between 2010 and 2011 spending across the nation actually went down by 0.4 percent. Statistician in the education finance data division of the U.S. Census Bureau, Stephen Wheeler took the time to explain how Montana fits into that picture.

"Montana was actually ranked 25th in the nation overall," Wheeler said. "Idaho was ranked 50th, South Dakota was ranked 41st. So, Montana was a little higher in spending than Idaho and South Dakota. Montana was a little bit lower than North Dakota and Wyoming. North Dakota ranked 18th and Wyoming ranked sixth overall in the nation."

In 2011, Montana spent an average of $10,639 per student, slightly higher than the national average. Unlike the nation, Montana did not spend less in 2011 than it did in 2010. It did, however, slow the rate of spending growth.

"It's been a steady increase since we began collecting data on an annual basis," Wheeler said. "Last year's increase [2011] was, I believe, only a 1.4 percent increase when before that the increase had been at least 3.8 percent every year."

According to Wheeler one of the main reason why education spending declined nationwide in 2011 was a reduction in school building projects.

Stephen Wheeler