- An updated analysis of equitable school funding practices finds substantially less state and local revenue going to districts with the most Black, Latino, and Native students versus those with the fewest students of color. The difference can be as much as $2,700 per student, or $13.5 million for a district with 5,000 students, according to a report released Thursday by The Education Trust.
- Ed Trust, a nonprofit that advocates for equitable policies and practices in education, also unveiled an interactive data tool that allows users to search funding levels and comparisons by school, district and state levels. The tool disaggregates data by demographics such as students of color, English learners and students from low-income backgrounds.
- The report and data tool will hopefully jump-start conversations about inequities in school funding across schools within districts, said Ivy Morgan, director of P-12 data and analytics for Ed Trust. Analysis of national and state funding practices should help educators, advocates and community members identify and find solutions to inequities in state and local funding practices, Morgan said during a pre-release briefing on Monday.
"Money matters in education," said Morgan. "And particularly when school funding formulas [and] funding systems provide substantial additional resources to support the needs of English learners [and] students from low-income backgrounds, we see improved outcomes for those students."
The report promotes not just equal levels of funding between student groups but "a significant amount of additional funding" for certain student groups, including those with disabilities.
It also notes that while districts and states have received significant amounts of federal COVID-19 emergency funding, those revenues will run out. To prevent an abrupt end to supports for high-need communities, education leaders need to address funding disparities now, the report said.
For example, the report suggests two to three times more funding for students from low-income backgrounds than for students from higher-income families.
Nearly all states provide less than 50% more in funding for low-income students. Only two states — Maryland and Massachusetts — use funding formulas that appear to allocate nearly twice as much for students from low-income backgrounds under certain circumstances.
The report builds on a 2018 report from Ed Trust that found “devastatingly large” funding gaps in some states, as well as areas of progress.
To analyze the state of funding equity across the nation and within each state, researchers used data on state, local and federal revenues and overall student enrollment from the 2018, 2019 and 2020 U.S. Census Bureau’s Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data files, among other resources. Several states were omitted in certain state-by-state funding analyses for various reasons, such as low populations of English learners.
Other findings from the research include:
- Students of color. Nearly half of states (22) had districts serving the most students of color where they received less state and local revenue per-student than districts serving the fewest students of color. The report highlighted six states — Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina and Rhode Island — where districts that served the most students of color received 10% to 22% less state and local funding than districts serving the fewest students of color.
- English learners. The districts with the most English learners had 14% less state and local revenue, or $2,200 less per student, compared with districts with the fewest English learners. In two states — Missouri and Colorado — districts with the most English learners got substantially more state and local funding than districts with the fewest English learners.
- High-poverty students. State and local revenue for high-poverty districts averaged 5%, or about $800, less per student than for low-poverty districts. In 37 states, there were districts with the highest concentrations of students from low-income backgrounds that were not receiving substantially more funding than more wealthy districts in the state. According to Ed Trust, an additional $800 per student at a 500-student school would cover the cost of hiring three new teachers or purchasing a laptop for every student.
The report also emphasizes that funding is just one part of the education picture. District and state education leaders need to verify that students have fair access to resources such as strong teachers with diverse backgrounds and rigorous coursework, as well as school environments that are physically safe and emotionally supportive, the report said.