Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card

The 4th edition of the Education Law Center's "Is School Funding Fair" report card is out this month, giving advocates and organizers across the country another round of valuable data on how well states are (or aren't) investing in their schools and students. Unfortunately, the report's main findings don't bode well for those needed investments: many states are still funding their schools below pre-recession levels with spending disparities as wide as $18,507 per student in New York to just $6,369 in Idaho – to say nothing of the inter-district disparities within states. 

The report card measures the "fairness" of school funding in four different ways: 1) a state's overall level of per-student funding, 2) the distribution of that funding between high- and low-poverty districts within a state, 3) a state's funding "effort," meaning its spending on education relative to the size of its GDP and 4) a state's "coverage," or the share of school-age children enrolled in public vs. private school.

Some of the key findings from the report include

  • "Fourteen states have "regressive" school funding. These states, which include Texas, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, provide less funding to school districts with higher concentrations of poor students.
  • Nevada’s school funding system is the nation’s most regressive. Nevada provides students in poor districts only half of what students in low poverty districts receive.
  • Nineteen states have "flat" school funding systems. These states, which include California, Florida, Colorado, and Washington, fail to provide any appreciable increase in funding to address the needs of students in high poverty districts.
  • While four states – Utah, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Carolina – do provide modestly higher funding to high poverty districts, the overall level of funding in these states is so insufficient as to rank them among the lowest in the nation.
  • Only Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Delaware have fair school funding systems. These states have a sufficient overall level of funding and provide significantly higher amounts of funding to high poverty school districts.
  • Many states with unfair school funding systems rank low on "effort." These states, which include Nevada, Arizona, California, and Oregon, allocate a very low percentage of their states’ economic capacity, or gross state product (GSP), to fund public education."

Download the full report here, and see how your state measures up with these great interactive charts and graphs.

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