Published: March 11, 2008

Failing School Finance in the West: A Continental Divide

The allocation of dollars for education is one of the most important responsibilities of state and local governments. In Quality Counts 2008, the EPE Research Center examines and grades states on education finance. The results illuminate an interesting regional pattern. This stat of the week takes a closer look at this pattern.

The EPE Research Center grades states on two aspects of school finance: spending and equity. While spending quantifies how much school districts and states are spending per pupil, equity measures how uniformly resources are allocated among disparate student populations. Each of the states with the lowest overall finance grades (Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Washington) received a D-minus or a failing mark in the category of spending. While the west is not the only region to fare poorly on spending measures, the states in the southeast, which also fared poorly in the spending subcategory, boosted their finance grades with high rankings in equity. The western states scored around the national average on equity, so their scores in this category were not high enough to bring up their overall school finance grades.

State Grades on School Finance

Because school finance policies in each state are developed independently, it is notable that the lowest ranking states in the category are all concentrated to the west of the Rocky Mountains. With the exception of Oregon, no state in the western region received a grade higher than D-plus.

For more state-by-state information about school finance policies, please see the EPE Research Center's Education Counts database and our School Finance topics page for the latest news on school finance.

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