The 3rd Edition
of Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card details
how school funding in most of the 50 states remains remarkably
unfair. States currently defending their funding systems
in court, such as Texas, New York and Florida, show serious
weaknesses in the Report Card's analysis.
Providing school funding---both at a sufficient level and
with additional funds to meet needs generated by poverty---is
crucial for all students to have the opportunity to learn
and succeed. The Report Card examines the commitment to equal
educational opportunity of all 50 states and the District
of Columbia by using four separate, but interrelated, funding "fairness
indicators"---funding level, distribution, state fiscal
effort, and coverage.
The Report's 3rd Edition finds:
- School funding in 2011 was largely stagnant or declining
in many states. About half of the states cut funding from
2010 levels, and in 14 states per-pupil spending in 2011
was below 2007 levels, even without adjusting for inflation.
- Reversing a positive trend, the number of states classified
as "progressive"---that is, they provide more
funds as district poverty increases---dropped between 2010
2011. Several of the fourteen "progressive" states
reduced funding to high poverty districts. New Jersey,
for example, lowered the funding boost for poor districts
42% in 2009 to a mere 7% in 2011. In Utah, the funding
boost was cut in half from 59% in 2009 to 24% in 2011.
- Many states reduced their investment in K-12 public
education in 2011. All but three states lowered their fiscal
on education between 2010 and 2011, when they faced the
fiscal cliff created by the loss of federal stimulus funds.
3rd Edition also explores the relationship between school
funding and three essential resources: early childhood education,
pupil-to-teacher ratios, and teacher wage competitiveness.
The report shows that states with fair school funding, such
as Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland, tend to provide
more support for early childhood education. Moreover, fair
funding states, such as Wyoming, are better able to provide
competitive compensation for teachers, while others, such
as Minnesota, maintain student to staff ratios that are adequate
to meet the needs of students. States that are particularly
weak on these measures include Alabama, Arizona, Colorado,
The Report Card also demonstrates the level of unfair funding
in many states:
- The disparities in funding among
states are vast, with average per pupil funding ranging
from $6,753 in Idaho, to
$17,397 in Wyoming. In six states (Tennessee, Mississippi,
Oklahoma, Arizona, Utah, Idaho), average funding levels
are below $8,000 per pupil.
- The majority of states have flat or regressive funding
distribution patterns that ignore the need for additional
funding in high poverty settings. Even among "progressive" states,
only eight provide more than a 10% boost to high poverty
districts. In the five most regressive states (North Dakota,
Vermont, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Nevada), the poorest
districts receive at least 20% less funding than higher
- States making the strongest effort to fund public
education devote more than 4.5% of their economic productivity
(Vermont, New Jersey, New York), while the lowest effort
states (Oregon, South Dakota, Delaware) allocate 2.5%
- The extent to which school-aged children do not attend
public schools raises a red flag in a number of states.
Household incomes of non-public school families in Louisiana,
Texas, and the District of Columbia are as much as two
to three times higher than incomes of public school families.
These data point to a potential lack of political and
support for fairly financing public education in these
National Report Card confirms that states across the country
are failing to adequately and equitably invest
in children," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO
of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
in Washington, D.C. "A tough economy is no excuse
to deny an adequate education to students, regardless of
disability status, income, or zip code. This report also
offers proof that states can do better when they prioritize
students over politics."
The National Report Card also shows how the Great Recession
triggered dramatic reductions in revenues from local property
tax and state sales and income taxes, the prime sources
of school funding in the U.S. The federal government provided
substantial stimulus funds on a temporary basis. When the
stimulus ended, however, states faced a crucial test: either
restore revenue or allow cuts to education funding and
This report shows many of the states failed this test,
sacrificing adequate and fair school funding after the
of federal stimulus dollars.
"As this Report
Card shows, most states did not step up when the federal
stimulus dried up. Instead, they cut education
funding, eroding fairness in some states and further
retreating from that goal in others," said David Sciarra,
Education Law Center Executive Director and NRC co-author. "These
latest results show school finance in most states is
decidedly unfair, a condition which deprives equal educational
to millions of public school children across the nation."
School Funding Fair? A National Report Card is coauthored
by Bruce Baker of the Rutgers Graduate School of Education;
David Sciarra, Executive Director of Education Law
Center (ELC); and Danielle Farrie, Research Director
Please visit the website to download the report and
to explore the
findings with interactive data tools.