Measuring Inequity in School Funding

This report examines variations in
per-pupil funding across states and further analyzes funding differences
between districts within each state. In order to make
comparisons in funding between states, it adjusts for local costs by
looking at of the percentage of taxable resources each state spends on
education. This becomes known as a state’s “effort.”

The study finds that the average percentage
of taxable resources spent on education or “effort” across states was
3.8 percent. In comparison, Ohio spends an average of 4.5 percent of
total taxable resources on education.  However, it should be noted that
when making comparisons like this richer states would have to spend a
much larger number of total dollars to reach a certain percentage than a
poorer state.  Therefore states like Illinois and Texas (which have two
of the largest state GDPs) spend below that national average at 3.7
percent and 3.4 percent respectively.

When making comparisons between districts
within a particular state, the report only accounts for state and local
portions of per-pupil spending. When evaluating intrastate funding on
education, equity measurements were divided into two categories:
measures of “spread” and measures of “progressivity.”  Measures of
spread refer to the degree in which per-pupil spending varied from the
state average.  Measures of progressivity gauge the level of spending in
districts with a high percentage of low-income children.

Ohio ranks in the bottom half of the
country in all measures of spread according to the report. Districts in
Ohio have wide variation from the per-pupil average, and in some
respects, this could represent high levels of inequity. However, Ohio
also ranks as one of the top 15 states according to most of the measures
of progressivity.  This indicates that Ohio is placing a large amount
of their “effort” into funding high poverty schools.

Although Ohio has a relatively inequitable,
yet progressive school district funding plan, several states like
Texas, Illinois, and Louisiana are lagging behind in terms of both
equity and progressivity.  Regressive states like these are failing to
provide funds to their highest poverty districts and thereby denying
resources to the students with the most need.

Measuring Inequity in School Funding
Dianca Epstein
Center for American Progress
August 2011

Matt Kyle is a Ohio Policy & Research Intern at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute