US-New Report Shows Continued Inequities in School Finance

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US-New Report Shows Continued Inequities in School Finance

In its 7th annual national report on fairness in school funding, the Education Law Center found that education funding in most states continues to be unfair and inequitable, and deprives millions of U.S. students of the opportunity to succeed in school.

This national report card, using data from the 2015 Census fiscal survey, the most recent available, concludes that there is almost no improvement since the end of the Great Recession in those states that do not provide additional funding to districts with high student poverty. There is also no change in the vast disparities in levels of funding for K-12 education across the states, even after adjusting for cost. 

Key findings include:

  • Funding levels show large disparities, ranging from a high of $18,719 per pupil in New York, to a low of $6,277 in Idaho.
  • The ten states with the lowest funding levels – less than $8,000 per pupil — include Florida, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. Three of those states, Arizona, Idaho, and North Carolina, provide less than $7,000 per pupil.
  • Many low funding states invest a low percentage of their economic output to support public education. These “low effort” states include California, Utah, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • Seventeen states, including Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, and Illinois, have “regressive” school funding. These states provide less funding to their higher poverty school districts, even though students in these districts require more resources to achieve.
  • Students in the South and Southwest face a “double disadvantage” because their states provide low funding with no boost in funding for high poverty districts. States with flat or regressive funding include Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida in the Southeast, and, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico in the Southwest.
  • Only a few states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Wyoming, provide high levels of school funding and distribute more funding to their high poverty districts. Notably, New Jersey and Massachusetts are the top performing states on student outcomes.
  • States with low or flat school funding have poor results on resource indicators crucial for students to succeed in school. In these states, access to early childhood education is limited; wages for teachers are not competitive with those of comparable professions; and teacher-to-pupil ratios in schools are unreasonably low.

The report judges states on the basis of four separate but interrelated factors: funding levels (adjusted for a variety of interstate differences), funding distribution (i.e. extra funding for students from poverty backgrounds), funding effort (in relation to the state’s fiscal capacity), and coverage (proportion and income disparities of students attending public versus private schools.)

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