Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Hot Topics/Funding Inequities

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What effects do inequities in school funding have on teaching and learning?

Before we can examine how school funding is inadequately disbursed amongst school districts we must first understand the complex nature of how schools receive their funding. When we break down the education system there is much more to learning than a teacher and a student. There is the money that is budgeted for each program, teacher salaries, per student costs, field trips, and everything that a school operates on is designated and planned by the budget for that school. To break down the funding and budgetary system we must look at the influences from not only the federal level, but also the state and local levels, and how these funds contribute to our education system.

School Funding[edit]

To better understand the breakdown of school funding we must look at the three different governmental factors that contribute to raising the appropriate funds for the many school districts nationwide.

“One current controversy stems much from the No Child Left Behind Act; this act gives the Department of Education the right to withhold funding if it believes the school, district, or even a state is not complying and is making no effort to comply.”1

Federal Level[edit]

On a federal level, the government contributes roughly eight and a half percent of all funding that each district receives. This is broken down into grants and scholarships that the school qualifies for. Each School district can qualify for different grants depending on the nature of the funds that they are trying to receive. “Federal money under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act may be used to provide “assistive technology” for children with a variety of disabilities.” Each district is responsible for what grants, scholarships, and federal funds it qualifies for and receives. “The Department of Education may disperse awards, grants, and contracts to schools, school districts, researchers, and others to implement new methodologies, Research effective practice, implement educational reform, and provide the Department goods and services.”

“The Department of Education may disperse awards, grants, and contracts to schools, school districts, researchers, and others to implement new methodologies, Research effective practice, implement educational reform, and provide the Department goods and services.” .”1

State and Local Level[edit]

The second part to school funding is more complex, because most of the funds for secondary and elementary education are from the State and local levels. According to a report published in 2005 by the National Center for Education Statistics there are splits between the state and local governments on average, 48.7 percent from the states and 42.8 from local sources contribute to the make up of school funding. There is still some margin of era, because this is an estimate and not every district follows this completely. When reviewing how funds are contributed to school districts on a state level we must look at the Education Reform that can vary state to state. Each state is responsible for budgeting a set amount for education; those funds are then disbursed evenly amongst the different school districts. This brings us to the local level of funding, because once funds are raised and disbursed it is up to the local districts for each school to decide how the money is divided. Other ways that schools can receive funding on the state and local level is property taxes. This is an ongoing debate amongst the various General Assemblies and the state senates because if the legislatures raise taxes to supplement the Education reform then this poses a strain on keeping local control while the state is increasing the states role in raising school funding. Another pit fall or down side to the tax issue is utilizing property tax, because if a particular district raises its property taxes to help with the funding for its particular school district, this in turn helps out the school, but poses a problem for those districts in low-income eras. Inner city schools would not raise as much additional funds by higher property tax, but if you raised say property taxes in New York City the school districts would potentially benefit due to the economic wealth in this particular era, so there are still so many questions and not enough answers on how to fix this problem.



Each School District is made up of a Board of Education, this committee is responsible for planning and budgeting of each school within that district. The Board of Education is responsible for making sure that each school receives the proper amount of funding to make sure that the school runs smoothly, without jeopardizing its educational need. In No Child Left Behind, the Department of Education was given the right to withhold funding if it felt the state did not comply with its regulations. This controversial amendment affects not only the state and local government, but each district as well. When planning the budget per fiscal year each district relies on the funds that they know are allotted to them. If by chance they do not follow the regulations outlined in No Child Left Behind, the federal government penalizes them by withholding the funds that were allotted to them. By doing so not only are the districts in jeopardy, but also the schools themselves. When breaking down the budgetary sources of funding that are disbursed by district, we have to evaluate how the districts split their funds and base their budgets for each school. Most districts in the United States, no matter where the schools are located, allot the same amount equally when using the federal and state funds that it was allotted.


On the individual level of each school we can look at a wider area of disbursement, because funds are not evenly disbursed sometimes the school might have a budget for one thing and have to allot those particular funds to something else. A prime example of this is based on Teachers salaries, if the budget that was calculated say for the inner city school stated that the average salary for that school is $30,900 and the average per student cost is $450.00 if the budget only allotted for say a teacher salary of $29,000 then the money that was allotted for the per student cost or from other areas such as extra curricular activities or departments that might not need the funding. This thought process in turn only effects the Teachers and student, and the lasting result is an inadequate funding system.


After understanding the breakdown of how schools are funded and how the money disbursement can be skewed we must look at how this affects the teachers and students in those school districts. As we know there can be committees established to raise additional funds for schools, but depending on the geographical location of that particular school, the cards might be stacked against them on raising the money that they need. For example, you might not get the peer or staff commitment in an inner city school to have a fund raiser to better there school, than say a school in New Your City or Orange County where there schools are in better neighborhoods, and the economic struggles that those students might face are not the same as an inner city student.


As teachers we are to mold the minds of young children who thrive to learn to the best of their ability while at the same time bettering themselves to develop the skill and mind set that will eventually lead them through life. Without the proper support from the community it makes it harder to help the next generation be the best of the best. With little funding allotted to books, supplies, technology, field trips, extra curricular activities it makes it harder for a teacher to teach there particular subject, an example would be you don’t want to teach a computer class with no computers. In today’s society there is a heightened push on the educator to make sure that the student is receiving the best education possible through the use of the tools that needed to adapt them to that way of thinking. With the federal government trying to push No Child Left Behind and to try to regulate what funds are allotted to states it makes it harder from the Teachers perspective to teach your class the way that you feel they should receive the information.


Students can also be affected by the lack of funding allotted to a school or shall we say the disbursement of funds. Without the budget for computers, extra curricular activities, study program, adequately trained professionals, how is a student to learn. If a child wants to learn Math they need a math book. The lack of support from the federal government can hinder the experience that a child receives or even the guidance that is given to them in there classroom setting if the proper tools are not there to help them succeed. With Rising salary cost, gas prices, and other economic hardships that might impact the environment that the student is in makes it harder for that student to relate or understand the subject area that they might be taught.


The Department of Education poses the right to withhold funding to schools that are not showing or complying with the rules and regulations of No Child Left Behind; but is this truly the answer. If a school district or even and individual school is not complying and the federal government withholds the 8% of funds that that schools district would have been allotted what does that prove. It penalizes those schools that were meeting the standards, jeopardizing the education of some for a few doesn’t seem worth it. We need to, as a nation, create ways to make the educational funding system better without jeopardizing those students that do what they need to. After much research there is still a need for some reform to better the educational funding system, so that all schools and school districts are on the same page, whether it is on a federal level to regulate the disbursement or to make sure that there are more grants established for low economic stricken areas that might not be able to prosper more through the community influences that other schools within the district might have to there advantage. There needs to be more rules and regulations on school funding so that as educators we can better provide for our pupils.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

Who has the right to without federal funding if states are not complying with the guidelines in No Child Left Behind?
A. National Education Association
B. Congress
C. Department of Education
D. The Heartland Institute

C. Department of Education

Which government agency is the main contributor to school funding?
A. State
B. Local
C. Federal
D. All of the above

A. State

Which committee is responsible for the planning and budgeting of school funding for each particular school within a district?
A. State government
B. National Education Association
C. Department of Education
D. Board of Education

D. Board of Education

What are a few ways that school funds are raised on the state level?
A. Property taxes
B. Federal funding
C. Education reform budget by state
D. A and C

D. A and C

Who gave the Department of Education the right to without funding from states if they don’t comply?
A. National Education Association
B. Congress
C. Senate
D. No Child Left Behind

D. No Child Left Behind

Essay Question[edit]

How would you fix the school funding issues that plague school districts? How would it benefit teachers and students?


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