Current school funding systems are arbitrary and fund similar students differently.
The borders of many school districts serve to concentrate poverty in their classrooms and separate their students from resources. This report identifies the borders that create the greatest degree of economic segregation between districts.
The United States is dotted with left-behind places. Many mid-sized cities, especially in the former industrial regions spanning the northeast and Midwest, have struggled in a changing economy; they have seen employers leave and populations decline, leading to higher poverty rates and lower property values. When school district borders are drawn around these communities, poverty is concentrated in their classrooms, and school funding can become scarce. Sometimes, these borders also serve as walls between communities of very different means. On one side, needy students are isolated in a high-poverty school district; on the other, the children of an affluent community learn in a school system supported by a healthy local economy. This report identifies the borders that create the greatest degree of economic segregation between neighboring school districts.
America’s neighborhoods are all too segregated by race and class—and our school district borders mirror, and entrench, these divides.
There are almost 1000 school district borders in the United States that create steep divides: racial differences of 25 percentage points or more and revenue gaps of at least 10%. These borders cut illogically across communities and counties and serve to divide students from resources—and from each other. Along 132 of these borders, the divides are especially great, with racial disparities upwards of 50 percentage points and revenue gaps of 20% or more. And while it is true that predominately nonwhite communities are nationally disadvantaged when it comes to school funding, these divisive borders reveal that much of the reason for this is local, not national. Around the country, many school district borders both segregate students by race and define unequal tax bases that yield different levels of school funding.
The vast majority of states leave school district mergers up to local districts, and even the states that have the power to step in do so only under the direst of circumstances, leaving students stranded in underfunded school systems.
School district borders define both which students will be served by a district and where those schools get their dollars. When states rely on local taxes to support schools, borders can be drawn to provide a deep well of resources for all of the community's children—or they can segregate those children along lines of opportunity and wealth.
When shifting conditions leave a school district without enough local resources to get by, it may seek to improve its financial health by consolidating with a better-off neighbor district. But in most states, that's all but impossible. In thirty-nine states, consolidation is purely voluntary, and struggling districts are likely to be turned away by their wealthier neighbor districts. In twenty-five states, there are financial incentives meant to encourage mergers, but they are rarely successful at bringing about consolidations for the districts that truly need them. In fact, only nine states have mechanisms that allow the state to mandate a merger, even in the direst of circumstances.
When state policy falls short and federal oversight fails, students in high-poverty districts see less education funding than their better-off peers.
Students in poverty require extra support—and more resources—to succeed. Federal funding for disadvantaged students, coupled with federal regulation of state education-funding systems, should aim to increase the amount of money going toward high-poverty school districts relative to their more affluent peers. However, federal oversight has fallen short, and states continue to allow children in high-poverty communities to go without the extra support they need. In a majority of states, the highest-poverty districts receive less state and local funding per pupil than the lowest-poverty districts. Whether through state law or federal regulation, there must be a greater emphasis placed on policies that ensure equitable funding for our nation’s children.
Much of school funding comes from local property taxes. In this report, EdBuild examines whether these taxes are imposed in fair and equitable ways, at rates that match each community's ability to pay.
When school funding is raised from property taxes, property-rich districts have an advantage: They can afford to pay lower tax rates without sacrificing school funding. But do they? In this report, EdBuild examines the relationship between local property tax rates and district affluence in 18 states. The report also explores the state policies that can promote equity in local tax effort for education.
High-poverty school districts enroll half of America's schoolchildren, and often, children in affluent, neighboring districts benefit from greater resources. This report highlights the country’s most segregating borders and considers how this situation has come to pass.
Income-based segregation between school districts is rising. Today, high-poverty school districts enroll half of America's schoolchildren. Often these high poverty districts neighbor wealthier school systems where children have access to greater resources. Because property taxes play such an important role in school funding, affluent communities have an incentive to establish school district borders around their neighborhoods in order to ensure that the benefit of their wealth is reserved for their children alone. When the families with means isolate themselves in wealthy districts, low-income children are left behind and income segregation between school districts increases.
This report presents the results of EdBuild’s analysis of the degree of income segregation across America's school district borders. In particular, it highlights trends among the 50 most segregating borders, and tells the stories of Detroit, MI; Birmingham, AL; Clairton, PA; Dayton, OH; and Balsz, AZ, whose borders with wealthy neighboring districts are the most segregated in the country.
FundED is the first interactive web tool to aggregate and standardize information regarding each state’s education funding laws.
FundED is the first interactive web tool to aggregate and standardize information regarding each state’s education funding laws. The intent of this site is to enable better state-to-state comparisons and provide easy access to detailed information related to the funding policies of all 50 states.
FundED provides information related to the most common elements of state funding formulas through national maps and state pages, organized by the general categories below. Explore the tool using the navigation bar above to see at-a-glance national maps, detailed state comparisons, and downloadable reports.
After cost-adjusting, some state formulas still appear arbitrary. Which states are giving drastically different amounts of funding to students of similar need?
In our third installment of Power in Numbers, we use cost-adjusted revenue to explore the arbitrary nature of school funding across the country. We look at differences nationally, and compare funding across similar districts throughout the country to reveal systemic inequities in the way we fund our schools.
Once you cost adjust revenue, which states are the most progressive in how they fund education?
In our second installment of Power in Numbers, we use cost-adjusted revenue to look deeper at whether each state is meeting their responsibility to provide sufficient funding for schooling for all children. We redefine state-level funding inequity and discuss how our current funding systems maintain uneven access to education.
How does per pupil revenue across the country stack up after you've cost adjusted for regional differences?
Our new series, Power in Numbers, focuses on the inequities brought about by our convoluted state funding systems. We focus on per-pupil funding for states and school districts across the country in order to understand and compare the data at the most granular level.
“How much money we spend on education doesn’t matter; it’s how we’re spending it that’s important.” Right?
We often hear this phrase in public education: “How much money we spend on education doesn’t matter; it’s how we’re spending it that’s important.”
While it’s true that our national average funding per student has increased significantly, what matters much more is the picture when we zoom in: who’s making the investment, who receives the funding, and which students need it most?
A new blog is floating around attacking EdBuild and mischaracterizing our work. It's time to set the record straight.
There’s a new blog post floating around attacking EdBuild that blatantly (and bizarrely) mischaracterizes what we’re up to. It touches on some important policy areas, so it’s worth correcting the facts.
It's no question that low-income students need more resources
A number of state courts have ruled that it is the responsibility of their state governments to address the disparities in what communities of varying property wealth can raise. But many states aren’t doing the job, leaving in place a regressive school funding system in which higher-poverty districts receiving less funding than low-poverty districts.
The amendment may sound nice on the surface, but the consequences could be detrimental for low-income students.
The war on poverty is not a struggle simply to support people, to make them dependent on the generosity of others. It is a struggle to give people a chance. It is an effort to allow them to develop and use their capacities, as we have been allowed to develop and use ours, so that they can share, as others share, in the promise of this nation.
Our recent map used poverty data instead of FRL. Learn about the difference in this post.
Recently, EdBuild launched an interactive map that highlights student poverty in every school district across the United States. After receiving a number of inquiries about our methods, we created this guide to help answer common questions.