Alaska and New York have the highest per-student funding levels, with $17,331 and $16,726, respectively, according to a new report this week from Rutgers University.
The analysis, called “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card,” found that most states’ public school funding is unfair and inequitable. Researchers from Rutgers’ Education Law Center based their work on data from the 2013 Census fiscal survey, and calculated whether states are fairly funding public schools by distributing money relative to student poverty.
Alaska and New York spend nearly three times on education as Utah and Idaho, which are at the very bottom of the list with about $6,000 in per-pupil funding or less. Many factors play into these figures, including costs of living across the country, which can also impact teacher salaries and school building facilities.
“School finance reform is clearly long overdue,” said Bruce Baker, professor at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education. “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.”
Other states with dismal spending levels, including California, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas, invest a very low percentage of state dollars in public education.
Areas in Pennsylvania have some of the most extreme disparities in spending – for example, Allentown and Reading have nearly 2 1/2 times the poverty rates as the rest of the country, and less than 80 percent of the average state and local revenue per student.
“States with deeply regressive funding, like Illinois, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, urgently need to overhaul their finance systems to give students a meaningful opportunity to succeed in school,” said David G. Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center. “Even states with higher funding levels, such as Connecticut and Wyoming, need to do more to ensure fair funding for each and every student. It’s time to put fair school funding at the top of the nation’s education reform agenda.”
D.C. was excluded from the analysis because it is a “single-district system,” according to the researchers. But prior reports show that the District landed on the higher end of the spectrum, spending about $17,000 per student.