Monday, January 30, 2017

New School Funding Fairness Report Is Available, Showing Continued Stagnation Since the Recession

The Sixth Edition of the School Funding Fairness Report is now available.  The report is a joint effort of the Education Law Center and the Rutgers University School of Education, with Bruce Baker serving as lead author.  To no surprise, the report "finds that public school funding in most states continues to be unfair and inequitable, depriving millions of U.S. students of the opportunity for success in school."  It retains the same methodology of the past, analyzing  "Funding Level, Funding Distribution, Effort and Coverage."  The report also highlights a major trend that I emphasized in Averting Educational Crisis--the failure of state funding systems to rebound since the Recession.  The report "shows 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 differences 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 $18,165 per pupil in New York, to a low of $5,838 in Idaho.
  • Many states with low funding levels, such as California, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas, are also low “effort” states, that is, they invest a low percentage of their economic capacity to support their public education systems.
  • Fourteen states, including Pennsylvania, North Dakota, New York, and Illinois, have “regressive” school funding. These states provide less funding to school districts with higher concentrations of need as measured by student poverty.
  • Students in certain regions of the country face a “double disadvantage” because their states have low funding levels and do not increase funding for concentrated student poverty. These “flat” funding states include Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida in the Southeast, and Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico in the Southwest.
  • Only a handful of states – Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Jersey – have “progressive” school funding. These states have sufficiently high funding levels and significantly boost funding in their high poverty districts.
  • States with unfair school funding perform poorly on key indicators of resources essential for educational opportunity. 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 high.

This year's report also comes with a huge bonus for researchers.  They can now download data files on local education agencies, state equity indicators, and basic state fiscal numbers. This is also probably great for Bruce Baker, so that the rest of the world can figure out answers to questions themselves.  We really owe a great debt to group for doing this work and making it available. It is the exact type of fundamental analysis and data that I argued over a decade a ago the U.S. Department of Education should be doing as part of its monitoring of federally funded programs.

Get the full report here and the data files here.

School Funding | Permalink


Mr. Black, thank you for your continued focus on education funding placing a spotlight on this highly critical issue is not only important for our children but also creates a platform for advocacy in our state legislation. You mentioned states that are regressive and progressive in their school funding. Currently, I live and work in an Arizona’s public school district where we regretfully rank 50th in the nation for classroom funding per student.

To make matters worse Arizona does face a “double disadvantage,” that you speak of where the states have low funding levels and do not increase funding for concentrated student poverty. In my case, this subject matter is even more complicated because I work in a Title I school district. The Arizona State Auditor General, Debra K. Davenport, just released Fiscal Year 2016 report to Governor Ducey’s office,, with the findings of the school districts in Arizona, declining 5 percentage points since it’s peak in the fiscal year 2004.

Davenport reported that in the fiscal year 2015, Arizona districts spent 53.6 percent of available operating dollars on classroom spending—the lowest percentage in the 15 years the office has been monitoring district spending. In addition to this debacle, the auditor's report goes on to say Arizona districts spent approximately $3,100 less per pupil than the national average.

The bottom line is that our federal government should be holding each individual states accountable, reviewing the facts of a state's audit in hopes of forcing the states to make better funding decisions. Our children are our future and deserve better.

“Kids don’t make up 100% of our population, but they do make up 100% of our future.”
-Zig Ziglar

Posted by: James West | Apr 30, 2017 12:13:17 PM

Thanks for the comment. I agree. I focus Arizona in particular in some of my recent work. I should have something new up either here in a couple of days.

Posted by: Derek Black | May 1, 2017 4:48:40 AM

Post a comment