THERE ARE WAYS TO FIX IT.
The American public education system is plagued by deep funding inequalities. These divides are created by differences in local wealth, and they are often too wide to be bridged with state funds. We need a better solution.
School district borders in America serve two roles. They define not only school systems, but also the local taxing districts that sustain them. Because of growing wealth inequality, funding gaps between affluent school districts and their needier neighbors are widening. States try to close these divides, but state funding, which is often drawn from unstable sources like sales, income, and energy taxes, just isn’t enough. We need a solution that goes beyond trying to patch the hole. We need to eliminate it.
By rethinking the role of school district borders—allowing local dollars to transcend these lines to support kids throughout the county or state—we can bolster funding for nearly 7 in 10 public school students.
State funding formulas drive the distribution of education dollars, and they do much to determine whether funding is adequate, equitable, and supportive of student success. View EdBuild’s model funding formula policies and use this interactive tool to build a state formula.
Every state uses a funding formula to distribute education dollars. State lawmakers and advocates frequently target these formulas for policy debate and legislative improvements. In support of these efforts, EdBuild offers its policy recommendations for each of the core areas of state funding formulas. These recommendations draw on, and build upon, existing state policies, showing how states can strengthen their formulas in line with the principles of adequacy, equity, responsibility, and transparency.
This is a practical guide for those seeking to reform state funding formulas. Use EdBuilder, an interactive tool, to construct your formula from the range of policy options recommended, and read EdBuild’s full recommendations to explore these policies in depth.
School district borders have power. They matter for school funding, home values, and diversity—and they can be drawn to either narrow or widen opportunity gaps. This fifty-state survey of school district border law provides tools to address these borders head-on in pursuit of educational equity.
Because so much of school funding is drawn from the property taxes raised within each district’s borders, those borders do much to determine students’ access to resources. District borders could be drawn to bring about fairer funding. Instead, our district map is the product of specific communities seeking to advance their own interests—affluent areas seceding; financially healthy districts refusing to join with struggling neighbors; and small districts resisting statewide consolidation attempts that would increase efficiency and inclusion.
Divisive borders are incentivized by the school funding system, but they are made possible by the laws that govern school district borders. Those working for educational equity should engage with these laws directly. This report supports that work with a fifty-state survey of school district border law.