America’s convoluted system for funding public schools results in highly unequal circumstances for school districts and their students depending on their home state.
That’s the central takeaway from Making the Grade 2022, the latest iteration of an annual report from the nonprofit Education Law Center on school finance differences among states.
Using 2020 U.S. Census data on school funding, the report analyzes combined state and local spending on K-12 schools using three metrics. This year’s report, published in December, also cites data from 2008 to 2020 to illustrate how school funding evolved between the start of the Great Recession and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In many states, the picture was rosier before the recession hit than it is now.
The report’s analysis is organized around three categories:
- Funding level: How much money do schools get per pupil?
- Funding distribution: How much more money do high-poverty districts get than lower-poverty districts?
- Funding effort: How much do states provide for schools relative to their overall gross domestic product?
Here’s a by-the-numbers guide to understanding the school funding landscape as illustrated in the report.
Change over time
How much money school districts got
How states fared on the report’s grading metrics
Educate Nevada Now, an advocacy group, weighed in on the report in a press release the day it was published.
“Seeing us toward the bottom in funding effort is the most disheartening aspect of this report, as it shows how indifferent and uncommitted Nevada is towards the education of its students,” said Amanda Morgan, the group’s executive director. “We don’t value them despite having the financial capacity to do more.”
How well states target resources to high-need students
While most states fail to ensure that high-poverty districts get proportionally more resources than low-poverty districts, a handful of states go above and beyond to address that gap. In Utah, high-poverty districts, on average, get nearly double the average haul than low-poverty districts. Five other states provide at least 33 percent more dollars per pupil to high-poverty districts than to low-poverty ones.