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The State of Funding Equity in


Inequities in funding are foundational to all sorts of other inequities in our school system. Yet many states continue to spend less on educating our low-income students and students of color — the very students who could benefit most from additional support in their schools.

In these State of Funding Equity reports and the accompanying Funding Gaps 2017 brief, we present the most recent data available (from the 2015 school year) on:

  • The revenues of districts serving the most students in poverty (the highest poverty districts) and how they compare with those of districts serving the fewest students in poverty (the lowest poverty districts) in each state;

  • The level of funding states provide to districts and how they distribute their own dollars;

  • The revenues of districts serving the most students of color and how they compare with those of districts serving the fewest students of color in each state.


Our analysis looks specifically at state and local revenues (excluding federal sources). Federal dollars are intended — and targeted — to provide supplemental services to specific groups of students, such as students in poverty, English learners, and students with disabilities. In this analysis, we were interested in learning how states allocate the resources that they control.

In this report, you will find detailed information on the funding patterns in each state and how they compare with those in other states. For an overview of national findings, please see the Funding Gaps 2017 brief.

In addition, because the Census Bureau’s school finance data — our source of funding information — does not include independently operated charters, our analysis excludes most charter schools. Note that some dollar values may not add up due to rounding. In addition, all displayed percentages are rounded to the nearest percentage point. While, states are ordered and classified as providing more or less funding to their highest poverty districts or districts serving the most students of color based on unrounded funding gaps.

Who Attends Schools?

Total Public Elementary and Secondary Enrollment, 2015:

0

Student Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity, 2015

Percentages may not add up to 100 because of rounding. Student groups that make up less than 0.5% of enrollment are not shown.

Percent of Students Who Are Low-Income, 2015

How Do the Revenues of the Highest and Lowest Poverty Districts Compare?

To measure disparities in state and local revenues based on the level of district poverty, we first sorted all of the districts in the state by the percentage of students who live below the poverty line. We then sorted districts into four groups (quartiles), so that each group had approximately the same number of students, and calculated the average state and local revenue per student across all the districts in each quartile. In the findings below, we look at the differences in state and local revenues per student between the highest and lowest poverty quartiles.

Note that we present two sets of estimates: The first set does not adjust for the additional needs of low-income students, while the second includes an adjustment for the additional supports that many such students need (see Note 1 for details).

To begin to account for the additional needs of low-income students, our adjusted estimate includes a very conservative assumption: that it costs a district 40 percent more to educate a student in poverty than a student not in poverty. This assumption is based on the federal Title I formula and is likely an underestimate. (For a detailed description of our methodology, including this 40 percent adjustment, please see the Technical Appendix.)

A Look at Differences in Funding Between ’s Highest and Lowest Poverty Districts

State and Local Revenues per Student, by Poverty Quartile

(Not adjusted for additional needs of low-income students)

The highest poverty districts receive

$0,   or   0%, less
per student than the lowest poverty districts.

State and Local Revenues per Student, by Poverty Quartile

(Adjusted for additional needs of low-income students)

Adjusting for the additional needs of low-income students, the highest poverty districts receive

$0,   or   0%, less
per student than the lowest poverty districts.

How Does the Funding Gap Between 's Highest and Lowest Poverty Districts Compare With Other States?
(Not adjusted for additional needs of low-income students)

Reading this figure: In Utah, the highest poverty districts receive 21 percent more in state and local funds per student than the lowest poverty districts (not adjusted for additional needs of low-income students). In states shaded in dark green, the highest poverty districts receive at least 15 percent more in state and local funds per student than the lowest poverty districts; light blue shading indicates that the highest poverty districts receive between 5 and 15 percent more.In states shaded in dark red, the highest poverty districts receive at least 15 percent less than the lowest poverty districts; light orange shading indicates that they receive between 5 and 15 percent less. Gray shading indicates similar levels of funding for the highest and lowest poverty districts. Note that although all displayed percentages are rounded to the nearest percentage point, states are ordered and classified as providing more or less funding to their highest poverty districts based on un-rounded funding gaps. For additional information relevant to this chart, please see Note 2.

How Does the Funding Gap Between 's Highest and Lowest Poverty Districts Compare With Other States?
(Adjusted for additional needs of low-income students)

State exclusions: Hawaii was excluded from the within-state gap analysis because it is one district. Alaska and Nevada are also excluded because their student populations are heavily concentrated in certain districts and could not be broken into quartiles. Other state-specific notes: Because so many of New York’s students are concentrated in New York City, we sorted that state into two halves, as opposed to four quartiles. In Maryland, the highest poverty quartile contains only 21 percent of students, and in South Dakota, only 20 percent. In Utah, the highest poverty quartile contains 31 percent of students. In New Mexico, the lowest poverty quartile contains only 20 percent of students.

Reading this figure: In Utah, the highest poverty districts receive 15 percent more in state and local funds per student than the lowest poverty districts (adjusted for additional needs of low-income students). In states shaded in dark green, the highest poverty districts receive at least 15 percent more in state and local funds per student than the lowest poverty districts; light green shading indicates that the highest poverty districts receive between 5 and 15 percent more.iIn states shaded in dark red, the highest poverty districts they receive at least 15 percent less than the lowest poverty districts; light red shading indicates that they receive between 5 and 15 percent less. Gray shading indicates similar levels of funding for the highest and lowest poverty districts. Note that although all displayed percentages are rounded to the nearest percentage point, states are ordered and classified as providing more or less funding to their highest poverty districts based on unrounded funding gaps. For additional information relevant to this chart, please see Note 2.

State exclusions: Hawaii was excluded from the within-state gap analysis because it is one district. Alaska and Nevada are also excluded because their student populations are heavily concentrated in certain districts and could not be broken into quartiles. Other state-specific notes: Because so many of New York’s students are concentrated in New York City, we sorted that state into two halves, as opposed to four quartiles. In Maryland, the highest poverty quartile contains only 21 percent of students, and in South Dakota, only 20 percent. In Utah, the highest poverty quartile contains 31 percent of students. In New Mexico, the lowest poverty quartile contains only 20 percent of students.

How Much of District Funding Comes From State Sources?

So far, we’ve been looking at the distribution of state and local funds combined. Now, let’s unbundle them and take a closer look specifically at state dollars. Why? Because while local dollars are derived mainly from property taxes, which can vary widely from district to district, state dollars are the funds that legislatures can and should use to counteract these differences.

First, we look at the share of district revenues that comes from state (as opposed to local) sources. We then look at the state revenues per student that districts in each poverty quartile receive to see whether the state legislature is allocating more funds to the highest-need districts — and if so, how much more.

Percent of District Funding That Comes From State (as Opposed to Local) Sources:

0%

How Does the State Contribution to School Funding in Compare With Other States?

State exclusions: Hawaii, Alaska, and Nevada were excluded from this analysis because they do not appear in any of the other state-by-state analyses. In addition, Vermont was excluded because the state tabulates revenue sources differently from other states.

Reading this figure: In Arkansas, 86 percent of districts’ non-federal revenues come from state (as opposed to local) sources.Chart labels are rounded to the nearest percentage point. Note that although all displayed percentages are rounded to the nearest percentage point, states are ordered based on unrounded percentages. For additional information relevant to this chart, please see Note 3.

How Does the Amount of State Funding Given to ’s Highest and Lowest Poverty Districts Compare?

The highest poverty districts receive

$ 0,   or   0%, less
in state revenues per student than the lowest poverty districts.

Revenues per Student, by Source and Level of District Poverty

What Does the Funding Gap Look Like for Students of Color?

Inequities in funding don’t only occur based on poverty. Previous studies have shown that districts serving the most students of color also tend to receive less state and local funding than districts serving the fewest.

To measure disparities in state and local revenues between districts serving the most and fewest students of color, we first sorted all of the districts in the state by the percentage of their students who are African American, Latino, or Native. We then sorted districts into four groups (quartiles), so that each group had approximately the same number of students, and calculated the average state and local revenue per student across all the districts in each quartile. In the findings below, we look at the differences in state and local revenues per student between the quartile comprised of districts serving the most students of color and that comprised of districts serving the fewest.

How Does the Amount of Funding Compare Among Districts Serving the Most and Fewest Students of Color?

Districts serving the most students of color receive

$ 0,   or   0%, more
per student than districts serving the fewest students of color.

Revenues per Student, by Student of Color Enrollment.

How Does the Funding Gap Between Districts Serving the Most and Fewest Students of Color Compare With Those in Other States?

State exclusions: Hawaii was excluded from the within-state gap analysis because it is one district. Alaska and Nevada are also excluded because their student populations are heavily concentrated in certain districts and could not be broken into quartiles. New Hampshire,Vermont,Maine,and West Virginia were excluded because students of color make up less than 10 percent of enrollment in these states. Other state-specific notes: Because so many of New York’s students are concentrated in New York City, we sorted that state into two halves, as opposed to four quartiles. In Alabama and Kentucky, districts serving the most students of color enroll about 29 percent of all students, while in South Dakota they enroll only 21 percent. In Utah, districts serving the fewest students of color enroll 31 percent of all students.Because so many of New York’s students are concentrated in New York City, the state is sorted into two halves, as opposed to four quartiles.

Reading this figure: In Ohio, districts serving the most students of color receive 27 percent more in state and local funds per student than districts serving the fewest students of color. In states shaded in dark green, districts serving the most students of color receive at least 15 percent more in state and local funds per student than those serving the fewest students of color; light blue shading indicates that the districts serving the most students of color receive between 5 and 15 percent more.In states shaded in dark red, districts serving the most students of color they receive at least 15 percent less than districts serving the fewest students of color; light orange shading indicates that the districts serving the most students of color receive between 5 and 15 percent less. Gray shading indicates similar levels of funding for districts serving the most students of color and those serving the fewest. Note that although all displayed percentages are rounded to the nearest percentage point, states are ordered and classified as providing more or less funding to districts serving the most students of color based on unrounded funding gaps. For additional information relevant to this chart, please see Note 4.

 

Data Sources and Notes

For an overview of national findings, please see our Funding Gaps 2017 brief. A detailed description of our data sources and methodology is available in the Technical Appendix to this report. For other looks at funding equity, see Bruce D. Baker, Danielle Farrie, Monete Johnson, Theresa Luhm, and David G. Sciarra. "Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card," (Newark, N.J.: Rutgers Graduate School of Education and Education Law Center, sixth edition, 2017), http://www.schoolfundingfairness.org/; Matthew M. Chingos and Kristin Blagg. “Do Poor Kids get their Fair Share of School Funding?” (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, 2017).


Data Notes:

1) To begin to account for the additional needs of low-income students, our adjusted estimate includes a relatively conservative assumption: that it costs a district 40 percent more to educate a student in poverty than a student not in poverty. This assumption is based on the federal Title I formula. (For a detailed description of our methodology, including this 40 percent adjustment, please see the Technical Appendix.)

2) These results reflect regular school districts only. Intermediate school districts, supervisory unions, and other specialized school districts are not included. State exclusions: Hawaii was excluded from the within-state gap analysis because it is one district. Nevada is also excluded because its student population is heavily concentrated in one district and could not be sorted into quartiles. Alaska is excluded because there are substantial regional differences in the cost of education that are not accounted for in the geographic cost adjustment data. Other state-specific notes: Because so many New York students are concentrated in New York City, we sorted that state into two halves, as opposed to four quartiles. In Maryland, districts in the highest poverty quartile enroll only 18 percent of students, and in South Dakota, only 20 percent. In Utah, districts in the highest poverty quartile enroll 21 percent of students. In South Carolina, districts in the lowest poverty quartile enroll 29 percent of students.

3) These results reflect regular school districts only. Intermediate school districts, supervisory unions, and other specialized school districts are not included. State exclusions: Hawaii, Alaska, and Nevada were excluded from this analysis because they do not appear in any of the other state-by-state analyses. In addition, Vermont was excluded because the state tabulates revenue sources differently from other states.

4) These results reflect regular school districts only. Intermediate school districts, supervisory unions, and other specialized school districts are not included. State exclusions: Hawaii was excluded from the within-state gap analysis because it is one district. Nevada is also excluded because its student population is heavily concentrated in one district and could not be sorted into quartiles. Alaska is excluded because there are substantial regional differences in the cost of education that are not accounted for in the geographic cost adjustment data. New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and West Virginia were excluded because students of color make up less than 10 percent of enrollment in these states. Other state-specific notes: Because so many New York students are concentrated in New York City, we sorted that state into two halves, as opposed to four quartiles. In Alabama, districts serving the most students of color enroll about 22 percent of all students, and in South Dakota, only 21 percent. In Delaware, districts serving the most students of color enroll 28 percent of students. In Utah, districts serving the fewest students of color enroll 19 percent of all students.

Data Sources (Note: See the Technical Appendix document for a detailed description of our methodology and analytic decisions):

 

Statewide demographics:

 

State and local revenues by district:

To limit the impact of year-to-year fluctuations in revenues, which can arise from one-time investments such as renovations or capital projects, we used three-year averages of state and local funds. Local funds include Impact Aid and Indian Education Aid, federal dollars meant to directly replace local revenues. All funding figures were obtained from U.S. Census Bureau, Public Elementary and Secondary Education Finance Data, 2013-2015, https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/school-finances.html (Downloaded August 2017). Data for 2013 and 2014 were inflated to 2015 dollars using the Consumer Price Index: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index - All items in U.S. city average, all urban consumers, not seasonally adjusted, https://beta.bls.gov/dataViewer/view/timeseries/CUUR0000SA0, (Downloaded August 2017). Financial figures were also adjusted for geographic variations in the cost of providing education services using the Comparable Wage Index: Lori Taylor, , ACS-based CWI 2013-2015, http://bush.tamu.edu/research/faculty/Taylor_CWI/ (Received November 2017).

 

Percent of children in poverty by district:

U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program, “2015 Poverty Estimates for School Districts, https://www.census.gov/data/datasets/2015/demo/saipe/2015-school-districts.html (Downloaded August 2017).

 

Percent of students of color by district:

National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data, Local Education Agency (School District) Universe Survey Data, 2015, http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/pubagency.asp. The percentage of students of color was calculated by adding the number of African American, Latino, and Native students in each district and dividing the sum by the total number of students in the districts.