Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 7/7.1.2

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School Funding: Are All Schools Created Equal?

Jenna Satcher

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Learning Targets

  • Students will be able to identify what most Americans think about funding and education.
  • Students will be able to explain what might happen to poverty levels if states cut funding or increase funding.
  • Students will be able to describe one out of many suggested reforms for public education funding.
  • Students will be able to identify possible effects of the economic recession on funding and public schools in Virginia.

Introduction [edit]

Schools are the building blocks of education. Such an important institution requires a massive amount of money to run smoothly and at a high quality. There are many different aspects to school funding.Questions such as who funds schools and how much they spend, how effective the amount of funding a school receives demonstrates the poverty level of the surrounding community, how reforms can be implemented in the way that funding is distributed, and lastly, how the current recession will affect the funding of different schools. Of course, the topics listed above are only a small sample of the aspects of the multifaceted issue of school funding.

Who Spends What? [edit]

One point that many Americans agree on when it comes to education is that not enough money is allocated for schools and education in general. Another point is that if more money is spent on public education then learning would increase. Many Americans (22%) agree that the lack of funds for schools is the education system’s biggest flaw ( Howell & West, 2008, para. 2). Although Americans agree that spending money on education should be increased, they tend to underestimate the amount per pupil that is actually being spent. In 2004 and 2005 the national average per- pupil expenditures was $9,435. The lowest per-pupil spending was about $5,644 and the highest was $24, 939. (Howell & West, para. 9).

Public education funding comes from three main sources: federal, state and local governments. For the fiscal years of 2006-2007, the national average for federal spending was 8.9% of the budget. The state government on average spent 47.6% and the local governments took the remaining 43.5% of the budget. During the same years, Virginia placed more responsibility on the local governments to fund the schools. In Virginia, federal funding accounted for 7.5% of the budget, state governments paid for 39.1% of the budget and the local governments paid for the majority of the budget paying for 53.5% of the budget (Boitnott, 2008).

School Funding and Poverty [edit]

Poverty affects many different parts of the United States, and certain areas are more poverty-stricken than others. Poverty is a major concern in America and people are constantly trying to implement programs to lessen poverty throughout the country. Recent studies show that increasing state education expenditures could decrease the states income inequality. This would allow the poor to rise out of the poverty level. As more money is spent on education, education at different schools becomes more equal eventually leading to a higher level of income equality. As education in all of a state’s schools becomes more equal, more people have the chance of going to a college or university and graduating. This will lead to higher paying jobs therefore decreasing poverty levels (Behr, Christofides & Neelakantan, 2004, p. 13).

On the other hand, as state school funding is cut the poorest children suffer the most. This happens because the local governments have to pay the amount that the state cut. The poorest communities cannot afford to pay this; therefore schools have a smaller budget and fewer resources. Ultimately the quality of education lowers and the equality of education among the public schools in the states diminish (Boitnott, 2008).

Reform [edit]

More Information

As stated above, most Americans agree that more money should be spent on public education. Current systems for allocating funding are in place, but some state that these programs should be reformed.

Some basic reforms that many actively suggest are as follows: “basing funding on student head counts, connecting education dollars to results, supporting more innovation and experimentation, and holding schools and districts responsible for making continuous progress to improve student achievements” (Viadero, 2008, p. 8).

Recent Studies and research projects call for a more large scale reform of the school finance system. The results of the School Finance Project states that the problem is not that we are necessarily spending too little on our school systems, instead the way the money is being spent is unpractical. More money is being spent by on elective courses than core courses, and a lot of state money goes to categorical programs instead of helping the disadvantaged. The study suggests solving this problem all of the money being spent should be added up and divided based on enrollment in all schools K-12. After this happens all of the schools that are still struggling would receive extra money, but only if they are willing to make changes to improve which might include: personnel and program changes. Overall, the new system would place more responsibility on the school leaders to decide how to spend their money (McNeil, 2008, p. 10).

Reforms can either be implemented by changing how much funding is given to schools or by changing how that funding is used by school districts.

Economic Recession and School Funding [edit]

Governor Kaine's Proposed Budget

Currently, the United States is experiencing an economic recession. This almost certainly affects the amount of funding that public schools will receive.

In Virginia, Governor Kaine has already proposed budget amendments to the state budget for the fiscal years of 2009 and 2010. These budget alterations will decrease the amount of state sponsored school funding. Governor Kaine has proposed permanent budget cuts in the part of the Virginia state budget that goes to fund public schools. He has proposed doing this by adjusting the funding formula. This will decrease state support for public schools, and it will last longer than the recession of the economy (Boitnott, 2008). Whenever a hard economic time faces the United States, and in turn Virginia budgets must be adjusted. In previous recessions or other difficult times, the people of Virginia have fought to keep public education budgets close to the same. Many Virginians feel that this is an excellent precedent to follow for the current recession(Boitnott).

The Constitution of Virginia States: “ The General Assembly shall provide for a system of free public elementary and secondary schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth, and shall seek to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained”(qtd. in Boitnott). This shows that a quality education is important to the people of Virginia and that just because times are hard we should not sacrifice the education of our youth. If by cutting budgets and school funding we are sacrificing the costs of our youth, then we are not abiding by the state constitution.

Conclusion [edit]

School funding is very important. The money that the federal, state and local governments give each school allows that school to educate their students with the best resources available. When funding to a certain school is cut ultimately the income equality for that community or state lowers, but on the other hand when the funding for schools is increased education equality is increased which helps the community in the long run(Behr, Christofides & Neelakantan, 2004, p. 13). Many people agree that the current system of financing schools is flawed. Some people state that in order to fix this more money should be poured into the education system. Others state that by simply changing the way the money is used the education system would benefit greatly(Howell & West, 2008). In the current economic recession, money is tight and school budgets are being shaved. In Virginia, Governor Kaine hopes to reformulate the way that schools receive funding in order to permanently lower the state funding of schools. This will create more of a strain on already stretched local budgets(Boitnott, 2008).

In my opinion, under the current school finance system schools are not equal. Some schools, usually those located in the richer communities have more resources from their local governments. Reforms to the system could solve this problem, yet it is extremely complicated and it is not likely that schools will ever be completely equal.

I feel that school funding is a complex issue and the only way that the best system can be formulated is through constant revision and experimentation. The ultimate goal is for education to be the best it can be in each state. The ways that schools are funded is just a way to meet this goal.

Review Questions [edit]

1. What is one thing that Americans agree on about education?

  A. There is generally not enough funding.
  B. The federal government should fund about half of education costs.
  C. Taxes should be raised to allow for more funding.
  D. The education system is efficient and needs to be left alone

2. Who is affected the most by a cut in state funding?

  A. The children from wealthy families.
  B. The children from middle-class families.
  C. The children from poor families.
  D. All children are affected equally.

3. If 92% of students from Ghent School pass the SOL's, 89% of students from Fairlawn Elementary School pass the SOL's, 67% of students from Popular Hall Elementary School pass the SOL's and 98% of students from Sewell's Point Elementary School pass the SOL's which school will receive the most state funding based on a basic school finance reform?

  A. Ghent School
  B. Fairlawn Elementary
  C. Popular Hall Elementary 
  D. Sewell's Point Elementary

4. Suppose that the City of Virginia Beach expects to have a budget defecit of $10 million this coming fiscal year. The State of Virginia plans to cut their funding of schools by 1%. What will most likely happen to the funding of the schools in Virginia Beach?

  A. The federal government will decrease their support as well.
  B. The city of Virginia Beach will pick up the funding that the state dropped.
  C. The city of Virginia Beach will not be able to make up the difference; funding will drop.
  D. The federal government will increase how much money it gives to the schools in the city.


1. The answer is A. .Americans agree that not enough money is spent on education. Americans also generally agree that if more money is spent on education then the quality of education would increase.

2. The answer is C. This is true because when a state cuts funding to public schools, the local governments have to make up the difference in the budget. Children from poor families tend to live in communities where the local government cannot afford to pay this difference, thus causing the schools to not be funded adequately.

3. The answer is D. One basic school finance reform is connecting education dollars to results. Since Sewell's Point had the largest percent of students to pass the SOL's they should receive the most funding from the state.

4. The answer is C. The city government would normally pick up the slack from the state, but since it is experiencing its own budget defecit it will not have the ability to fund the schools with more money.

References [edit]

Behr, T., Christofides, C. & Neelakantan, P. (2004, April). The effects of state public K–12 education expenditures on income distribution. National Education Association. Retrieved February 3, 2009, from

Boitnott, Kitty. (2008, January 19). Address at the State Budget Hearing on the 2008-2010 Biennial Budget as Proposed by Governor Kaine, Richmond, VA.

Howell, W.G. & West, M.R. (2008). Is the price right? Education Next. 8 (3), 36-41. Retrieved February 3, 2009, from the Education Research Complete database.

McNeil, Michelle. (2008). Overhaul school finance systems, researchers urge [Electronic Version]. Education Week. 28(11), 10.

Viadero, Debra. (2008). Study calls for tightly tying school funding to strategic goals [Electronic Version]. Education Week. 28(15), 8.

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