Education Funding and Budget

5 unavoidable truths about school funding

Take Action ›

Take the pledge to fight for opportunity for all students! Click here›

By Amanda Litvinov /  photo by Anthony Iezzi

We know the strategies that help close achievement gaps: Lower class sizes. A broad curriculum. Attraction and retention of highly qualified teachers.

But these strategies are unobtainable without stable, adequate, and equitable funding. And that’s an approach to closing achievement gaps that we’ve never really tried says Bruce D. Baker, a professor in the Department of Educational Theory, Policy, and Administration in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University.

Baker is routinely frustrated by the pundits and policymakers who claim that America “pours money into failing schools.” We don’t, and we haven’t.

That’s the first thing you should know about school funding.

dollar bill icon1. “The data show that we’ve never provided sustained, adequate, and equitable funding in any of our disadvantaged communities,” says Baker. Too often, promising efforts on the part of one administration or elected body are abandoned after the next election cycle. And short-term funding improvements just don’t move the dial for struggling schools.

Here are 4 more truths about school funding:

2. Two-thirds of voters believe states should close tax loopholes before considering any cuts to public education. Some of our nation’s most profitable corporations pay less in state and federal income taxes than the average working family. And that means the loss of hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars that pay for essentials like roads, bridges, emergency services, and schools.

capitol icon3. The needs of poorly funded districts are not met by federal programs like Title I and IDEA. Federal funding makes up only about 10 percent of all school funding. Federal education programs, while incredibly important, have simply never been funded at levels that would move the dial on eradicating inequities. Ultimately, it’s up to the states to equitably finance their schools.

4. No punitive evaluation system has ever been shown to make a dent in achievement gaps–but improving state school finance systems has. Money does matter. And more equitable distribution of funding can improve outcomes through targeted, sustained spending in high-needs schools, as studies of school finance reforms in the 1990s in Michigan, Kansas, and Massachusetts show.

gavel icon5. A court ruling in favor of increasing school funding doesn’t automatically bring relief for underfunded schools. Although such court cases do put pressure on state legislatures to address inadequate school funding, they do not necessarily make those funding systems more equitable. It is up to voters to hold elected leaders accountable for addressing inequity in school funding.

8 responses to “5 unavoidable truths about school funding

  1. As the husband of a teacher, I see the funding problem as it really is. Schools never get enough funding. They want better education and spend billions creating a new curriculum that basically teaches the same things the old did.
    Meanwhile teachers are underpaid, some schools are unfit to be in, even hazardous. Teachers have to purchase supplies out of their own underpaid pocket to be able to teach efficiently.
    Spend a week at your local school. Show up at the same time as the first teacher, go home at the same time as the last. Pay attention to what they have to deal with.
    I double dog dare you

  2. Isn’t that the strategy of the GOP think tanks like ALEC, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute, Free Congress Foundation and many others? Isn’t their aim to defund Public Education and privatize it? Much of the shamefully deceptive rhetoric we see bantered about these days stems from the move by moneyed interests to consolidate more, more, more $$$$capital$$$ to the top.

    National policy including the Gramm, Leach, Bliley Act, that repealed The Glass Steagall Act and destabilized Wall Street investment banks, as well as the Free Trade Agreements that effectively opened the floodgates for the offshoring of family sustaining USA jobs in the manufacturing sector to desperate sweatshops on foreign soil in return for higher profit margins and Wall Street gains were GOP bills. These bills benefitted NOT “we the people,” but the greatly benefitted the Wall Street financial sector and corporations. Then there’s corporate welfare, lobbied for and written into the tax code that witnesses $Hundreds of Billions$ in tax breaks and subsidies for corporations clearing $10s of Billions per quarter, as they park their earnings in offshore tax havens, or “inversions…” tax avoidance schemes.

    Even our very elections reflect this oligarchical influence of granting moneyed, special interest advantages and control in the selection of candidates and their resultant allegiances. “We the people” don’t have the resources to begin to compete with moneyed interests. This was lobbied for and achieved through campaign finance laws like Citizens United vs. The FEC, and look at the results! Corporations have

    So it is a natural progression that this movement of $$$capital$$$ consolidation to the oligarchs move into a push to privatize and CAPITALIZE on public education. One of the strategies working against us is the implementation of unfunded mandates in an attempt to “starve the beast.” Thus, assuring public schools flounder in the hopes that privatization is an idea that gains momentum with an electorate that is flooded with anti-public school, disingenuous rhetoric. Research the corporations and their markets shares that manufacture and distribute State Standardized Tests that our public schools are mandated to use. Follow the $$$money$$$…

    1. This aspect of the problem is true. The people need to vote these republicans out because they do not have the people’s interests at heart, they work for the market-forces only. The “privatization” f schools, the extending of schooling to the Pre-K level, the assumption that students will be college-ready (The Common Core) creates intensified demands on schools to maintain their status in their community. But, the funding of schools is another story with whatever funds are left to the government after the corporations have taken their share of the pie through tax resistance practices. There are several sources of funds for education: there is state income tax, there are local property taxes, there is Federal funding, in some places there are city taxes, and sometimes there are special revenue sources like lotteries. There are probably other sources. Now comes the distribution of the funds. The key problem is that the property taxes for each particular locality varies widely and the State/City/Federal funding is never enough to make the difference or even come close to equalization. For example, teacher salaries and equipment for city schools is everywhere almost 33% less than in the suburbs. The suburbs of each major city vary, but they are often much better funded than cities. Chicago is going though its budget woes again where the Chgo. Public School system will be insolvent without 500M from the state which says it cannot help, so its budget cutting time! Most major cities are hard-pressed to keep pace with rich suburban school systems. This means fewer teachers and crowded classrooms, less technology and weaker security (less effective security) and lower salaries for everyone. This then translates into undersupervised students and increased competition between teachers who tend to turn into junk-yard dogs over the intensified evaluations, the testing mania, and the static salaries. This is true for all school systems. Even in rural areas which are poorer than even the city districts, the property tax for schools is killing their home budget, savings, and discretionary spending. When you consider the exorbitant price for houses and the ever-increasing rent, plus the property tax, and the growing working class who make only a wage where the minimum wage has hardly changed significantly in over 40 years, and you have a real problem with the legitimacy and acceptance of schooling, not to mention the derogative attitudes towards teachers. Other problems just multiply the perception that inequality in life opportunities boils down to housing, taxes, and schooling experience. Tack onto that the problem of the extremely high cost of college and the experience with college loan repayment, and the purpose of education varies dramatically from district to district: some people go to school to improve their chances of an economically prosperous life while others just trudge through unhappily and they refuse to study. Education may not have any benefits for the majority.

      1. Reply to Fred:
        You say it well! In 1969 I was 16 years old and got my first summer job as a mason tender with a local masonry outfit. They paid me $4.25/hr. You worked like an adult, they paid you like an adult.

        3 years later, I was hired and paid $6.25/hr.

        Do you know what those wages would be today, adjusted for inflation? $4.25 would equal $27.64. 6.25 would equal $35.68!!!

        Do you know what I did with those summer earnings? I bought a used car, a top-of-the-line stereo system, paneled my bedroom, put money away for college expenses… etc. In other words, I invested those wages back into the USA economy in the form of discretionary spending on products and services that helped fund our fellow citizens’ businesses. Now imagine a well paid USA middle class 300 MILLION strong investing in the economy and the growth that would create…
        Today, we see the results of a strapped middle class, many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck, as a result of the downward pressure on wages and the simultaneous loss of purchase power through today’s stagnant or shrinking wages/income, and the effects of inflation. Where do you think all of that inflationary capital went that used to flow into the pockets of a middle class consumers, which, in turn, created purchase power and the ability to invest in their families, homes, schools, and neighborhoods as well as fuel the markets? Follow the $$$money$$$…

      2. And who would suggest we ‘vote in?’ Criminals like Hillary? Business haters like Liz Warren: You do know that her family defaulted on loans and had cars repossessed? That’s why she hates banks. Her ner’do good father was a bum and now she hates financial institutions. Or may-be some flake job like Bernie S. could run the country? There are few if any candidates worthy of the title president. As far as education, the federal government needs to stay out of states’ business. The president ought not to matter

      3. It is wrong to draw party lines when it comes to the issue of school funding. Democrats and Republicans of talking a good game during election years, then conveniently forgetting promises as their term progresses. Stay informed as to how each elected official votes and where their priorities are.

  3. No mention of deteriorating conditions in older schools, no mention of the impact of underfunding on the choice of sites for school buildings — in general, no mention of the physical environment of education.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *