What does ‘fairness’ mean? School Funding Fairness shows how policies differ in a state by state report.
Florida gets it ‘half right’. How does your state rank?
There is no uniform system of education in the United States, recent Common Core Standards notwithstanding. Education funding differs both across states and within states, districts and schools. This research compares funding by state, and makes adjustments based on poverty levels and regional cost variations.
Four comparisons are made:
- Funding level per student
- Equity in distribution of funds
- Funding effort based on state GDP (income level)
- Public school coverage vs. private school enrollment
Trend data between 2007 and 2011 are disturbing. There was a 31% increase in the number of families living in poverty. During that same period, the percentage of students attending high poverty schools more than doubled. Thus, not only were there more low income families, their children were more likely to attend schools with concentrated poverty levels than previously. Children from poor families were more likely to attend schools with high rather than mixed levels of poverty.
States with the largest concentrations of high poverty schools (30% or more students in poverty per school) were: Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. In these states, one fourth of all schools had high levels of students from poor families. Why these schools were not more evenly balanced was not addressed.
High poverty level schools tend to be at risk schools. Many are overwhelmed with the problems children face. While there is no single solution, different approaches to zoning and public school choice have reduced the impact and made some problems more manageable. Minneapolis, for example, allows parents to select three schools for their children and balances the income and racial demographic characteristics in an area’s schools. Some states also have higher numbers of low income children in daycare
Minnesota, New Jersey, and West Virginia receive the highest rankings. It means their spending on education is related positively with their state income. They also distribute the money to districts fairly to reflect need. They retain students in public schools.
Florida distributes per student funding fairly. It receives a grade of ‘B’. Unfortunately, Florida has an ‘F’ in funding related to state income. Florida also has lost students to the private sector which makes public schools less cost effective; it ranks 43nd, right next to Mississippi. In sum, what little money Florida allocates to public education is distributed equitably to districts. Florida could do much better, but private school enrollment saps the political will to improve public schools.
Eighteen states had very inequitable funding across districts. Two states, North Carolina and Missouri were the lowest on all indicators. If you would like to see how your state ranked, see: National Report Card.
There are other indicators of educational quality as well. The percentage of 3-4 year old children attending day care is reported. Fifty percent of Florida’s attend preschool, but 57% of those children come from higher income families. The teacher student ratios vary across states, but some states reduce class size for schools in low income areas and other states have larger classes for low income children than for high income children. Florida has slightly higher pupil to teacher ratios for low income students.
Money does not solve all educational problems. The lack of fairness and equity does, however, make problems worse.