The Challenges of Funding Public Schools: A Local Government Perspective

As an expert in local government and education, I have witnessed firsthand the complexities and challenges involved in funding public schools. It is a topic that is often debated and criticized, but few truly understand the intricacies of how schools are funded. One of the most important things to understand is that local funding is the primary source of income for public schools, accounting for approximately 81% of their budget. This funding comes primarily from property taxes, which are collected by local governments. In addition, schools also receive some income from parent-teacher associations, tuition, transportation fees, food services, and other sources. However, it is important to note that public schools are not solely funded by local governments.

In fact, in the 1920s, local governments provided more than 80% of school funding. Today, state and local governments provide an equal share of school funding, with the federal government covering less than 10%. This shift in funding sources reflects the changing landscape of education in our country. The importance of public education cannot be overstated. It is not only a fundamental right for all citizens to have access to education, but it also plays a crucial role in shaping our society.

In order for individuals to participate in government and contribute to society, they must have a basic understanding of reading, writing, and other subjects such as history and geography. Despite its importance, public education is often the most criticized expense for state and local governments. Many people accuse public schools of failing and point to low academic achievement compared to other countries. As a result, there have been numerous efforts to improve public schools in recent years, with states and localities experimenting with different approaches. One key difference between the United States and other countries is that state and local governments provide the majority of funding for education. In fact, education is the largest individual expense for state and local governments across the country.

On average, a quarter of their budget is allocated to public schools. While this may seem like a significant amount, it is important to note that each individual expense related to education represents less than 10% of state and local expenditures. However, when combined, they make up a large portion of the budget. For example, school districts may issue bonds to fund new construction or renovations, which are then paid back through higher taxes imposed on the public. The distribution of funding also varies greatly from state to state. In Hawaii, the state covers about 90% of educational expenses, while in New Hampshire, the local school district covers 90%.

This disparity highlights the impact of demographics on funding levels. In some cases, tax money may not even go directly to students or schools in the taxpayer's neighborhood. In order to identify potential funding gaps, most states use forecasted data sets to project how much a local municipality can generate in funding. This information is crucial in determining how much support schools will receive from state and federal sources. Education is a top priority for presidents, governors, and school board members alike. However, until progress is made in addressing funding disparities, it will continue to be a contentious issue.

Once the budget is approved, the funds are sent to the local education agency, usually on an annual or biannual basis. From there, it is distributed among schools based on their needs. While local funding plays a significant role in education, it is important to recognize the support provided by state governments. Many states not only provide financial support but also administrative support to schools. Some states have even developed funding formulas to bridge the gap between what can be raised locally and the basic level of funding required for schools. When considering federal, state, and local funding, it is worth noting that nearly all states allocate more funding per student to poor children than to non-poor children.

However, only a few states, such as Alaska, New Jersey, and Ohio, have truly progressive funding systems.