As states and school districts grapple with how to spend an unprecedented stream of federal pandemic aid, a look in the rearview mirror shows long-term potholes in their existing spending patterns. Kindergarten to Grade 12, including their efforts for equitable funding.
EdWeek Research Center’s latest school finance analysis, based on 2018 federal data, the most recent available, captures widespread inconsistencies by state and region in how the public dollar is used to educate more than 50 million people. students.
First, the big picture: The nation as a whole scores C for school finances on this year’s Quality Counts report card, scoring 76.1 out of 100 possible points, up from 0 , 3 points compared to last year. Nineteen states receive grades between C-minus and D-minus reflecting a need for significant improvements in their education financing policies and outcomes.
But some states have done much better than that. New Jersey has an A-minus and the highest score in the country (91.2). New York also gets an A-minus. After four consecutive years as the nation’s financial leader, Wyoming falls to third place overall with a B + while falling on six of the eight rated indicators. It is followed by Maryland, Rhode Island and Connecticut, which also receive B-plus ratings.
There is also a change at the bottom of the leaderboard. Idaho was locked in last place since 2010. But this year Nevada is falling to last, with the only D-minus. Four states receive D ratings: Oklahoma, Utah, Arizona, and Idaho.
At the same time, however, the analysis reveals a continuing tension between the average amount spent on Kindergarten to Grade 12 per student and the fairness with which that money is actually distributed among districts – a matter of fairness that takes all the more important as some $ 122 billion in federal pandemic-impact aid is pouring out.
Here’s how Education Week delivers these grades and rankings
This second installment of Quality Counts 2021 assesses the nation and states on overall spending and the extent to which that funding is distributed fairly across districts.
The EdWeek Research Center uses data collected consistently from federal sources to better ensure that the newsletter provides an apples-to-apple performance assessment in the states. The analysis is based on data from 2018, the most recent year of federal information available.
To further ensure an accurate picture of state performance, the research center also adjusts the results of most indicators for regional cost differences and takes into account the additional costs required to serve students with disabilities and those living in poverty.
The school finance ranking combines the results of four expenditure indicators and four equity indicators in a state’s overall score.
The four expenditure indicators are: expenditure per student, the percentage of students in districts spending at least the US average, the expenditure index, and the percentage of total taxable resources spent on education.
The equity measures are: Wealth Neutrality Score, McLoone Index, Coefficient of Variation, and Narrow Range. Definitions of all indicators are available in the glossary provided with this report.
Point totals are calculated using state-of-the-art methodology, which evaluates a state’s results on each indicator against the highest state on that specific metric. The leader state gets 100 points, and the points are then awarded to the other states based on their distance from the leader of the nation. A state’s overall score is the average of its point totals on each of the eight indicators in the analysis. This score is used to assign AF scores on a traditional 100 point scale.
The research center identified the main takeaways from this year’s data:
A disconnect from equity. The nation fared considerably better on equity indicators than on overall spending measures, receiving a B-plus (88.4) for equity and a D (63.7) for spending. About half of the states get F grades for their spending.
Despite the widespread struggles in this category, however, a solid result is not an unattainable goal. New Jersey has an A for spending and the District of Columbia, New York, Wyoming and Alaska have A minus.
In the area of fairness, 22 states score A or A less, led by Maryland with the best score of 93.9. However, the nation receives a B-plus for equity and not an A, indicating that many states can further strengthen the equity and impact of their education funding by investing more in high school districts. poor.
Despite the fact that students in very poor districts are often the most in need of school programs and services, Alaska is the only state to provide more funding to asset-poor districts than to richer counterparts, according to the reports. Wealth neutrality scores presented in the report card.
Big ups and downs for many states. Consistent performance on both aspects of scoring is the exception rather than the rule, as states that rank higher for overall spending sometimes struggle to distribute that money fairly among districts, and some states with better. Equity scores fall to the lower level for spending.
New Jersey climbs to the top of the overall standings with an A and a 93.5 score for expenses, but falls to 29th for equity. It ranks fifth in highest spending per student when dollar amounts are adjusted for regional cost differences and is second for the share of total taxable resources it spends on education spending. But $ 7,258 per student separated its top-spending and least-spending districts, one of the biggest gaps in the country. Alaska has an even wider gap between its results in the two categories finishing fifth in expenses but last in equity. Florida is second in equity but 46th in spending.
The best and worst performing countries are grouped together geographically. Nine of the top 10 scorers overall are in the Northeast or Mid Atlantic regions. Wyoming is the only state to oppose this trend. All of the states in the bottom 10 are in the southern and western parts of the nation. Expenses vary considerably when adjusted for regional costs. At $ 23,205, Vermont’s per-student spending dominates the country. That’s $ 2,595 more than second-place New York and $ 4,300 more than Connecticut, which comes third. In contrast, Utah ranks last at $ 8,352 per student.
Only the districts of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, and Wyoming can claim that all of their students live in districts and spend at least the US average.
The level of state commitment to funding education varies considerably. One measure of a state’s commitment to kindergarten to grade 12 is its total taxable resources spent on education, the share of the state’s overall spending pie that is spent on schooling. Due to long-standing economic and structural forces, the resources available to states differ, but the policymakers in each state can still choose to make education a top priority when determining how to allocate the dollars they have available.
An illustration: the percentage of total taxable resources spent on education ranges from 5.4% in Vermont to just 2.7% in North Carolina.
Who is above and who is below? Kentucky has improved its overall financial score the most since last year, gaining 5.4 points in the rating. The state’s gains were propelled by an increase of about $ 1,200 in per-student spending and an increase in the percentage of students in districts with per-student spending at or above the U.S. average, which rose from 1.2% in the 2020 analysis to 23.9% in this year’s report.
Washington (+3.9), Georgia (+2.8) and New Hampshire (+2.0) also saw their overall financial point totals increase by two points or more.
In contrast, Louisiana saw the largest drop in its overall financial score from last year, dropping 3.9 points on the report card. It has lost ground on equity measures, with the gap between its highest-spending and least-spending districts widening by more than $ 400 per student. The percentage of students in districts with per-student spending at or above the U.S. average also fell from 32.1 percent last year to just 18.3 percent.
Overall financial scores for Wyoming (-3.1), Delaware (-2.7), North Dakota (-2.7) and Pennsylvania (-2.3) also fell by more than two points. .