Few States Pass When It Comes to Funding Schools Fairly

A new study finds that most states don't fairly distribute educational funding.
A new study finds that most states don't fairly distribute educational funding.

Ever noticed how some school districts seem flush with cash while neighboring districts struggle to provide even basic schooling? One reason could be that many states may not be distributing school aid fairly.

In a new report titled Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card,the New Jersey-based Education Law Center ranked the fairness of the school finance systems in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. And only six of those states -- Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and Wyoming -- scored well on all four "fairness measures." The report evaluated the amount of funding per pupil, the amount of education spending compared to states' gross domestic product, the allocation of money to schools with higher poverty levels and the proportion of children in public schools, as well as their income levels.

Most states received mixed reviews, while four states -- Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri and North Carolina -- ranked below average on all of the indicators.

Spending Varies Widely

"The results show that many states do not fairly allocate education funding to address the needs of their most disadvantaged students and the schools serving higher numbers of those students," the report states. Only seven states -- Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, South Dakota and Utah -- scored an A or B for distributing more money to schools in impoverished communities.

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In addition, states' per-pupil spending varies widely. While the national average for state spending amounts to $10,132 per pupil, a student in Tennessee receives about 40% of the funding of a comparable student in Wyoming.

"This report shows that many states fall short in providing education funding, although there are some bright spots," David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, said in the report. "Every state needs to do a better job, but certainly some more than others." Education funding has become a nationwide contest, thanks to the Race to the Top, the Obama Administration's signature education initiative, which pits states states against one another in a competition for federal money.