Report Card Shows 14 States Provide Less Funding to Schools of Low-Income Students

Education reform campaigns, presidential candidate priorities, and legislation call for equitable access to a high quality education. This usually starts with each school having access to the necessary funding to provide excellent teachers, a safe school environment, and effective learning resources. According to the Education Law Center, many states are not giving additional funding with students at the highest level of need. Fourteen states, including Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Illinois, provide less funding to school districts with higher concentrations of low-income students.

Key findings

  • Funding levels show wide disparities among states, ranging from a high of $17,331 per pupil in Alaska, to a low of $5,746 in Idaho.
  • Many of the states with the lowest funding levels, such as California, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas, invest a very low percentage of state economic capacity in funding public education.
  • Certain regions of the country exhibit a double disadvantage – many states with low funding overall add no additional funds for concentrated student poverty. These include Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida in the Southeast, and Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico in the Southwest.
  • Only a handful of states – Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Ohio – have generally high funding levels while also providing significantly more funding to districts where student poverty is highest.
  • Low rankings on school funding fairness correlate to poor state performance on key indicators of essential education resources, including less access to early childhood education, non-competitive wages for teachers, and higher teacher-to-pupil ratios.
  • Even when adjusted for regional cost, Alaska and New York, the states with the highest funding levels, spend more than two and half times what is spent by Utah and Idaho.

"School finance reform is clearly long overdue," said Bruce Baker, the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education Professor who developed the report's methodology, in a press release. "States must develop, and fund, school finance formulas that identify the costs of providing essential education resources to students, accounting for diverse student needs and taking into account local fiscal capacity."

Read “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card” Fifth Edition, by: Bruce Baker, Danielle Farrie, Theresa Luhm and David G. Sciarra, Education Law Center (March 2016)


Education Policy