Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Education

As Protests Over School Spending Ramp Up, Report Blasts States’ Formulas

By Daarel Burnette II — February 19, 2020 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

State legislative sessions are in full swing this year and, with governors and legislators deciding what to do with budget surpluses, large coalitions of K-12 advocates have ramped up their efforts to overhaul key components of their states’ funding formulas.

Legislative fights have broken out in New Jersey and New York over districts’ spending caps, thousands of public school advocates in Florida, Indiana, and South Carolina have protested at state capitols to push through ambitious teacher pay proposals, and in Maryland on Monday, thousands rallied to completely overhaul that state’s funding formula as part of a sweeping K-12 policy initiative.

This week, the Albert Shanker Institute that advocates for the value of teacher unions, says in its latest report that most states’ school funding formulas fail to target resources at districts that need them the most. It’s the second year that the institute has released the report, which ranks states based on how much they spend as a proportion of their total economic capacity, whether that amount is enough to meet common outcome goals, as defined by the institute, and whether states target funds at the districts that need it the most.

“The idea that ‘money doesn’t matter’ in school quality is no longer defensible,’” the report said.

While experts suggest states replace their funding formulas once every decade, the average funding formula is more than 20 years old (several states’ funding formulas are more than 40 years old). This has led to an overreliance on local property taxes to pay for schools, wide disparities between wealthy and poor districts, and teacher shortages in many states.

Despite that, legislators, district superintendents, and state courts frequently disagree about what to replace funding formulas with. Wealthy districts don’t want to lose funding, legislators don’t want to increase property, sales, or income taxes, and district superintendents don’t want to lose autonomy over how they spend their money. This has effectively led to political gridlock. While Texas, Massachusetts, and Illinois were successful last year in overhauling their funding formulas, aggressive efforts in Idaho, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina have struggled politically.

Bruce Baker, a researcher with the Albert Shanker Institute and one of the report’s co-authors, has been absolute in his resolve that money can increase academic outcomes and that states spend far too little on its poorest students. (He’s previously said that most states should be spending around $20,000 on poor students, $7,000 more than states currently spend on students.)

Among the institute’s latest findings, the typical state devotes about 3.5 percent of its gross state product to K-12 education. It found that in just six states spending on the highest poverty districts is adequate to achieve national average test scores, and in 28 states high-poverty districts receive less revenue than do affluent districts.

“When you look at our results, coupled with states continuing to disproportionately label their highest-poverty districts as failures, it looks strikingly like a failure by design,” Baker said in the report. “Year after year, states are not providing their districts, particularly their high-poverty districts, with the resources they need, and that’s not some accident or confluence of random events. It’s a conscious, deliberate policy choice.”

At least four Democratic presidential candidates this year have pushed to triple Title I funding for low-income students, which would fundamentally change the role that federal lawmakers have over school spending. (Candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed to quadruple Title I school spending.)

Kimberly Jenkins Robinson, a law professor at the University of Virginia along with several other scholars argues in a recently released book that, considering the political gridlock in states and the existing and longstanding inequities in school spending, there should be a federal right to education. That would give the federal government legal backing to intervene when states fail to support schools.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP