- A six-month investigation by 20 NPR member stations found great discrepancies in school spending across individual districts, state-by-state.
- The investigation found that districts that have successful businesses within their perimeters have more local taxes to help them pay for education, which makes for substantial differences in school funding.
- Property values also play a major role in contributing to disparity in ed funding, since properties that are valued higher end up contributing more via property taxes, maintaining better-funded schools in wealthier areas.
The NPR investigation backs up research from the Education Law Center (ELC), which recently released a report entitled "Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card." The ELC found that the majority of current school funding formulas across the U.S. are "unfair and inequitable," with "little improvement over the past five years in those states that consistently fail to direct additional funding to districts with high levels of need, as measured by student poverty."
Alaska and New York were reported to spend the most, with the former spending $17,331 per pupil. Utah and Idaho spent the least, with the latter spending $5,746 per pupil. The 47 most fiscally disadvantaged school districts are located in 16 states, and two Pennsylvania districts, Reading and Allentown, are the worst in the nation. They're reported to have "nearly 2.5 times area poverty rates and less than 80% of the average state and local revenue" per pupil.
What can be done to tackle the inequity? According to the ELC, the states of Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Ohio are all focusing on improving school spending on low-income students. In those five states, which all have what the report calls "generally high" funding levels, significantly more money is funneled to districts with high levels of student poverty.
School officials invested in finding solutions may want to pay attention to Iowa, where a panel has been mandated to explore “perceived inequities” in an attempt to find answers. There, proportionally vast transportation spending for large districts, per-pupil cost discrepancies and unequal property tax bases contribute to the funding gaps between districts.