Public School Funding in America: Mass inequalities, underfunded, getting worse. Let's fix it

Using this NPR story “Why America’s Schools Have A Money Problem” from a couple of years ago for background.

It makes sense that areas that had more taxes collected, i.e. wealthier neighborhoods often with bigger businesses located within them. As such, going to public school in Beverly Hills is a lot different than in Compton.

According to the National Counsel of State Legislators:

So the solution in most states has been for the states to make up the difference in areas lagging behind their more affluent areas but thus far states have been unable to significantly address inequalities. The NPR piece mentions that it has been implemented in North Carolina where the state handles two-thirds of the funding (in the country as a whole most school districts are funded 10% by the federal government and the remainder is equally split by local and state funding).

I couldn’t find any information as to how successful this has been in the Tarheel State though I did find a FAQ of sorts that spells all of it out in a pretty even-handed way.

I bring this up because Pennsylvania keeps on trying to address the dual desire to lower property taxes and fund the schools but they have failed because they include taxing groceries which is a nonstarter for politicians on both sides of the aisle. That hasn’t stopped the guy with “$12,000 in property taxes” from posting the failed bill dozens of times in the community group, oblivious to the fact that robbing Peter to pay Paul is only good for Paul (and that Peter will be affected much more significantly).

In the 2018 midterms, several states and one city had ballot initiatives addressing school funding with mixed results:

What is the solution? Does North Carolina - bearing in mind economic slowdowns and recessions can kill the state budget - have the right idea? Can we look to other countries or does our state system and a lack of real federal oversight/funding make us have to find fifty solutions for a fifty-state problem?

Education inequality is a huge problem in this country. The reliance on property taxes has created generations of kids whose quality of education depended considerably more on their zip code than their aptitude. It’s an issue that is now beginning to gain more prominence as inequalities in other facets of American life are examined more closely than in the past. How can we fix this?

I dont know.

States only have so much money which must also go for roads, parks, public safety, public health, etc…

We have a growing number of seniors who are on fixed incomes who cannot pay more taxes.

Too high of taxes means people and businesses might not want to move there.

Some schools serving different populations just require more money than others.

No easy answers.

The problems with schools reflect social and economic problems in the community, which also span generations. I think fixing schools has to be seen as part of a larger economic initiative to benefit at-risk communities or communities in need (or whatever we want to call them). To do this, there has to be a commitment by all, especially those who have the wealth, to improve socioeconomic parity, and I just don’t see that as a major priority in a lot of cases. Parents with wealth want to send their children to private schools and will pay big money to do so; conversely, they often seek to move away from communities that impose tax burdens, and thus essentially de-fund communities that need tax base the most.

Exactly what happened in Kansas City Missouri. The KCMO district was majority white until the 1960’s. Then and up thru the 1970’s as more black families moved in the white families left to either the suburbs or to private schools. So many families that might still live in the district, send their kids to private so they vote down tax increases. The district had not approved a bond increase for over 20 years till a state court case forced it in the 90’s.

Now in contrast Kansas City KANSAS, on the other side of the state line, has few private schools so they have voted for tax increases and the KCK schools are generally seen as good even though they serve the same working class and inner city neighborhoods.

Now back to KCMO, people are moving back and buying up the cheap property. BUT, they usually dont have kids and if they do, its private schools.

same in Houston. i can’t find the cite but there was a study done years ago that came up with a # where something like a 40% minority population in schools would drive the remaining white population out to the burbs or private. any less than that % and you still have a majority white school.

i think the only fair way to do this is for a state or federal entity to provide most of the funding ala NC, and then have local jurisdictions pay for the rest of what they want. ie, fed/state provides a base level of school service for all and let the locals fill in the nice-to-haves. the problem with this is you’ll run into the same political problems that medicare for all is having in the healthcare arena.

for more on Houston, look into ‘Houston recapture payments’ and enjoy the show. Houston Chronicle and Texas Tribune do an ok job covering the day to day, but there are probably long form articles that sum it up much better.

fwiw, we went private elementary due to the public school budget cuts this year and general clusterfuckery in the school board, but only because DD is a high performer. if she was middle of the pack i don’t think private would be worth it.

In Kansas City Missouri, they had a court case in 85 that claimed in order to desegregate the schools they had to spend a lot more on the schools. The court agreed and ordered the city and state to 2 billion dollars over ten years. They became the best funded school system in the country. The new funding was $5,400 per year per student which almost doubled the previous spending. They built a pool with an underwater viewing room, tv and animation studios, a zoo, a wildlife park sanctuary, and a model UN with simultaneous translation. The Student to teacher ratio dropped to the lowest in the country. The results were that segregation got worse, the black white achievement gap got worse, test scores did not improve, and drop out rates got worse.

One should never believe what NPR says without checking first. The article is misleading because it only talks about state and local funding. Federal funding is generally tied to poverty among the students. This means that the bulk of federal money goes to poor districts. This more than makes up for local and state funding discrepancies and in just about every state poorer districts get more funding per student than rich districts.


Given that only about 10% of school funding comes from the Federal governmentI find it hard to believe that it could make up for any discrepancy.

Yeah, and that’s the same figure in the NPR citation.

Also, the proposed Trump budget cuts Education funding by $7.1 billion dollars “eliminating 29 programs, including after-school and summer programs for students in high-poverty areas, among other things,” so even if most of the federal funds are going to impoverished areas, that number has always been small and the current administration seems keen on making it even smaller.

Not so sure how that’s going to help with the inequalities inherent with the system. Seems to me it’ll make things worse.

Easyto find. These things were not done in a corner.

It does not indeed, puddleglum needs to show that sorry source he relied on.

According to this other report from The Education Trust, the number was a bit lower, they are looking at the same source, but different years.



The way it works is that local funding is uneven toward richer districts and state funding is uneven toward poor districts. Together, most funding ends slightly weighted toward poorer districts but less than $1,000 difference. That is why the federal funds mean that generally poorer districts get more funding. According to an Urban Institute studyonly 3 states have lower per student spending in poorer districts, Illinois, Wyoming, and Nevada, and those differences were small.

And of course, good schools can’t be bought, However after dealing with the mismanagement the situation is better now… And it also needed plenty of money.

That last bit is crucial, in a very long winded thread in the pit about Charles Murray -and his ruse to get more airtime that worked with San Harris- the discussion turned to why schools fail and what to fund to deal with that failure. As some extreme solutions I saw showed, it is at least with parents that have kids with educational issues where the aid should go, there is a need to incentivizing the parents of under-performing students to go back to school or get more aid in housing and other moves to improve family and social life, that will also increase the educational levels of our nation. IMHO.

That 10% or less of federal funding is still insufficient.

I’ll be the “cite”. I actually worked at that school with the fancy swimming pool and such. They put that stuff in to be a “magnet” for white suburban kids. It helped some but didnt address the core issues.

The report you linked to does not measure the effect of federal funds at all. It also labels only one state, Illinois, regressive.
It may well be that schools in poor areas need alot more money, but the truth is they are getting more money already just maybe not enough. The states that devote proportionally more money to poor districts don’t seem to be having great results.

That was one of the points, in the previous train wreck discussion, it was clear that many researchers do not look at the effects of the federal funds, because they are not really a big part of the overall funding.

As pointed before, indeed, not enough. And then there is the part of not helping much the student’s families to stabilize or improve their welfare. That already shows how inadequate the funding is because, as shown in several cases, the family life issue is not supported properly in most districts.

Illinois had a ballot referendum some years back that was supposed to be aimed at unlinking school funding from local property taxes by having state government kick in a larger share of school district budgets, but it was worded so poorly and confusingly that I couldn’t figure out what it would actually accomplish, so I voted against it.

Ontario changed school funding a while ago. The local school portion of property taxes become the “education levy” portion, and was set by and went to the province rather than the local school board. The province then funded local school boards on a per-pupil basis, removing the influence of local tax rates on the schools.