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Lessons Learned: How to dig deeper

When it comes to obtaining funding for K-12 education, each state is different. Most states still rely heavily on local property taxes to pay for the cost of providing an education to residents; a few have state-controlled school finance systems and many states acquire revenue from a variety of other taxes and fees.

How states spend the money collected for education is also a mixed bag, with different funding formulas and state laws determining where the money goes and who gets how much.

With all this variation, it seems most helpful to provide some suggestions on how you can find information about the rules and regulations that govern your own district’s school financing scheme.

  • Learn about the issues. Most school districts have web sites that include a link to a school board page. There you’ll find minutes from previous meetings, along with funding information, proposed policy issues, and so on.
  • Check your state resources. Every state has a school board association. Find yours at www.nsba.org, click on “State Associations of School Boards,” and start exploring.
  • Check your national resources. Start, of course, with the National School Boards Association. You might especially look at the school law about finance. Beyond that, some helpful links related to education finance include:
    • 10 facts about K–12 education funding, published by the U.S. Department of Education.
    • The National Center for Education Statistics houses data in the Education Finance Statistics Center. Once there, click on Data Tools  and find a link to Public School District Finance Peer Search tool. Type in your district and you’ll see a list of nine other districts across the United States that are similar to yours in terms of locale, total enrollment, student/teacher ratio, and the percentage of children in poverty.
    • The Education Commission of the States includes information on education funding. Select the K–12 Issues option, and then choose the Finance topic from the drop-down menu. There, you’ll find a succinct summary of the issues related to funding public schools in the United States, including reports on state funding formulas and taxation and spending policies.
    • The web site of the ACCESS project at Columbia Teachers College has information about school funding legislation.  

How to dig deeper was written by Kathy Checkley, a freelance writer who lives in Austin, Texas. Kathy has over 13 years of experience writing about education issues. 

Posted: July 10, 2008

©2008 Center for Public Education

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