In all, 28.5 percent of America’s schools are rural, and 48 percent of those rural students are from low-income families, the report said. Those are significant numbers, and so are these — we don’t spend nearly as much money on rural schools as we do in other areas. Only 17 percent of education funding goes to rural schools. On average, $6,067 is spent per year on each student in rural schools. Compare that to the national average of $11,841 spent per student each year.
The Taxpayers Guide to Education Spending 2017 shows the myriad ways which school district numbers can be divided, with several categories of per pupil costs, including one labeled “actual per pupil costs.” But trying to compare district to district can be a daunting affair, even if the state does try to eliminate some variables, such as transportation costs, the amount of pension costs for local teachers paid by the district or even judgments against the school district. Click here for an interactive map of district per-pupil spending from NJ Spotlight.
The disparity in school funding is especially noticeable here in eastern North Carolina as most rural counties farther inland fall well below the state average for spending per student. However, coastal areas benefit from a tourism driven economy and high property values, so spending per student increases markedly.
America’s educators need every tool in the toolbox to turn around chronically struggling schools. Choice alone won’t do it. Local control, in and of itself, won’t do it; for the most part, we have local control and it’s one of the big reasons some low-performing schools languish for decades. More money is important, but all funds need to be spent strategically. Successful turnarounds must be accompanied by real and meaningful changes in the way we train and support teachers, the way we instruct students and the way we structure our time and use our resources.
A new report from EdBuild, Building Equity: Fairness in Property Tax Effort for Education, analyzes the way public schools are funded via property taxes and how this affects school funding equity. The disparities in “tax effort” for education funding are a key emphasis for the report, which aims to determine whether the burden put on poorer districts is more than their wealthier counterparts.
When Congress passed ESSA in 2015, it created a requirement that states report per-pupil spending levels at both the district and individual school levels, disaggregating federal, state, and local funds, as well as personnel and non-personnel expenditures. In the coming months of 2017, states have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and a commitment to equity and excellence by not just complying with the requirement, but by designing and implementing a methodology that will allow districts to use data to make strategic and smart decisions for the equitable distribution of resources.
As school budgets become tighter, more education foundations for public schools are likely to form to fill the gaps. In the Rochester area of New York, the popularity of private education associations has flourished, with five forming since 2012 and two others pending.