Current school funding systems are arbitrary and fund similar students differently.
School district borders have power. They matter for school funding, home values, and diversity—and they can be drawn to either narrow or widen opportunity gaps. This fifty-state survey of school district border law provides tools to address these borders head-on in pursuit of educational equity.
Because so much of school funding is drawn from the property taxes raised within each district’s borders, those borders do much to determine students’ access to resources. District borders could be drawn to bring about fairer funding. Instead, our district map is the product of specific communities seeking to advance their own interests—affluent areas seceding; financially healthy districts refusing to join with struggling neighbors; and small districts resisting statewide consolidation attempts that would increase efficiency and inclusion.
Divisive borders are incentivized by the school funding system, but they are made possible by the laws that govern school district borders. Those working for educational equity should engage with these laws directly. This report supports that work with a fifty-state survey of school district border law.
State funding formulas drive the distribution of education dollars, and they do much to determine whether funding is adequate, equitable, and supportive of student success. View EdBuild’s model funding formula policies and use this interactive tool to build a state formula.
Every state uses a funding formula to distribute education dollars. State lawmakers and advocates frequently target these formulas for policy debate and legislative improvements. In support of these efforts, EdBuild offers its policy recommendations for each of the core areas of state funding formulas. These recommendations draw on, and build upon, existing state policies, showing how states can strengthen their formulas in line with the principles of adequacy, equity, responsibility, and transparency.
This is a practical guide for those seeking to reform state funding formulas. Use EdBuilder, an interactive tool, to construct your formula from the range of policy options recommended, and read EdBuild’s full recommendations to explore these policies in depth.
School district consolidations are just one method of alleviating the financial burden districts face with declining enrollment and property values. But will they ever be enough, or is there a more systemic issue at play?
In 39 states, consolidation is purely voluntary. Twenty-four of these states also provide financial incentives to encourage mergers between wealthier and less affluent neighbors, but such mergers rarely happen. In fact, only nine states have mechanisms that allow the state to force a merger, but very few can do so in response to financial problems. And no consolidation policy can overcome the problem of insolvent districts surrounded by other property-poor school systems. Widening the tax base cannot help students who live and learn in regions experiencing broad economic struggles.
So long as states depend on local property taxes to fund their schools, there will inevitably be students stranded in districts ill-equipped to provide for their educations. Read about examples when children were left behind by these policies in our Case Studies, and then continue on to the Solutions section to see how states can do better.
When state policy falls short and federal oversight fails, students in high-poverty districts see less education funding than their better-off peers.
Students in poverty require extra support—and more resources—to succeed. Federal funding for disadvantaged students, coupled with federal regulation of state education-funding systems, should aim to increase the amount of money going toward high-poverty school districts relative to their more affluent peers. However, federal oversight has fallen short, and states continue to allow children in high-poverty communities to go without the extra support they need. In a majority of states, the highest-poverty districts receive less state and local funding per pupil than the lowest-poverty districts. Whether through state law or federal regulation, there must be a greater emphasis placed on policies that ensure equitable funding for our nation’s children.
Much of school funding comes from local property taxes. In this report, EdBuild examines whether these taxes are imposed in fair and equitable ways, at rates that match each community's ability to pay.
When school funding is raised from property taxes, property-rich districts have an advantage: They can afford to pay lower tax rates without sacrificing school funding. But do they? In this report, EdBuild examines the relationship between local property tax rates and district affluence in 18 states. The report also explores the state policies that can promote equity in local tax effort for education.
High-poverty school districts enroll half of America's schoolchildren, and often, children in affluent, neighboring districts benefit from greater resources. This report highlights the country’s most segregating borders and considers how this situation has come to pass.
Income-based segregation between school districts is rising. Today, high-poverty school districts enroll half of America's schoolchildren. Often these high poverty districts neighbor wealthier school systems where children have access to greater resources. Because property taxes play such an important role in school funding, affluent communities have an incentive to establish school district borders around their neighborhoods in order to ensure that the benefit of their wealth is reserved for their children alone. When the families with means isolate themselves in wealthy districts, low-income children are left behind and income segregation between school districts increases.
This report presents the results of EdBuild’s analysis of the degree of income segregation across America's school district borders. In particular, it highlights trends among the 50 most segregating borders, and tells the stories of Detroit, MI; Birmingham, AL; Clairton, PA; Dayton, OH; and Balsz, AZ, whose borders with wealthy neighboring districts are the most segregated in the country.
FundED is the first interactive web tool to aggregate and standardize information regarding each state’s education funding laws.
FundED is the first interactive web tool to aggregate and standardize information regarding each state’s education funding laws. The intent of this site is to enable better state-to-state comparisons and provide easy access to detailed information related to the funding policies of all 50 states.
FundED provides information related to the most common elements of state funding formulas through national maps and state pages, organized by the general categories below. Explore the tool using the navigation bar above to see at-a-glance national maps, detailed state comparisons, and downloadable reports.
After cost-adjusting, some state formulas still appear arbitrary. Which states are giving drastically different amounts of funding to students of similar need?
In our third installment of Power in Numbers, we use cost-adjusted revenue to explore the arbitrary nature of school funding across the country. We look at differences nationally, and compare funding across similar districts throughout the country to reveal systemic inequities in the way we fund our schools.
Once you cost adjust revenue, which states are the most progressive in how they fund education?
In our second installment of Power in Numbers, we use cost-adjusted revenue to look deeper at whether each state is meeting their responsibility to provide sufficient funding for schooling for all children. We redefine state-level funding inequity and discuss how our current funding systems maintain uneven access to education.
How does per pupil revenue across the country stack up after you've cost adjusted for regional differences?
Our new series, Power in Numbers, focuses on the inequities brought about by our convoluted state funding systems. We focus on per-pupil funding for states and school districts across the country in order to understand and compare the data at the most granular level.
“How much money we spend on education doesn’t matter; it’s how we’re spending it that’s important.” Right?
We often hear this phrase in public education: “How much money we spend on education doesn’t matter; it’s how we’re spending it that’s important.”
While it’s true that our national average funding per student has increased significantly, what matters much more is the picture when we zoom in: who’s making the investment, who receives the funding, and which students need it most?
A new blog is floating around attacking EdBuild and mischaracterizing our work. It's time to set the record straight.
There’s a new blog post floating around attacking EdBuild that blatantly (and bizarrely) mischaracterizes what we’re up to. It touches on some important policy areas, so it’s worth correcting the facts.
It's no question that low-income students need more resources
A number of state courts have ruled that it is the responsibility of their state governments to address the disparities in what communities of varying property wealth can raise. But many states aren’t doing the job, leaving in place a regressive school funding system in which higher-poverty districts receiving less funding than low-poverty districts.
The amendment may sound nice on the surface, but the consequences could be detrimental for low-income students.
The war on poverty is not a struggle simply to support people, to make them dependent on the generosity of others. It is a struggle to give people a chance. It is an effort to allow them to develop and use their capacities, as we have been allowed to develop and use ours, so that they can share, as others share, in the promise of this nation.
Our recent map used poverty data instead of FRL. Learn about the difference in this post.
Recently, EdBuild launched an interactive map that highlights student poverty in every school district across the United States. After receiving a number of inquiries about our methods, we created this guide to help answer common questions.