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America's Most Financially Disadvantaged School Districts and How They Got That Way

July 1, 2014

This report explores some of the most financially disadvantaged school districts in the country and identifies a typology of conditions that have created or reinforced their disadvantage. Financially disadvantaged districts are those that serve student populations with much greater-than-average need but do so with much less-than average funding. The Education Law Center of New Jersey's annual report, "Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card," uses a panel of the most recent three years of U.S. Census Bureau Fiscal Survey data on state and local revenues per pupil in order to determine which states achieve systematically greater funding per pupil in districts serving higher student poverty concentrations and which states maintain school funding systems where higher poverty districts have systematically fewer resources per pupil.The same data have been used in follow-up analyses to identify the local public school districts across states that are saddled with greater-than-average student needs and less-than-average state and local revenue.2 As one might expect, numerous poorly funded local public school districts exist in the least fairly funded states. That is, where a state school finance system is such that higher-need districts on average have lower state and local revenue, there tends to be more high-need districts with lower state and local revenue. And as it turns out, there are unfairly funded districts in what are traditionally viewed as fairly funded states. In other words, poorly funded local public school districts exist in states where school finance systems are, on average, progressive. This report looks at why this happens -- and what can be done about it.

Adding Up the Spending: Fiscal Disparities and Philanthropy among New York City Charter Schools

January 31, 2011

This brief explores the financial resources of New York City charter schools. It also addresses differences in student population characteristics and student outcomes across New York City (NYC) charter schools, and evaluates how financial resources translate to other schooling inputs, such as more or less experienced teachers and smaller or larger class sizes.These schools are examined within the broader context of school funding equity and factors that other research has shown to have the potential to advance or disrupt educational equity. In American public education, funding equity involves multiple levels, linked to the multiple levels of our school systems. State systems govern local public school districts, with schools nested within districts. Public charter schools are either nested within districts or operate as independent entities.NYC charter schools are of particular interest to national audiences mainly because they have been used to argue that charter schools outperform public schools and that New York's experience with charter schools suggests a transferable, nationally scalable policy option. Three studies concerning NYC charter schools in particular are frequently cited: Dobbie & Fryer, 2009; Hoxby, Murarka and Kang, 2009; and CREDO, 2009.It is important to note, however, that the NYC context may be unique in terms of the role played by philanthropy and so-called venture philanthropy. Significant philanthropic attention has been focused on charter management organizations like the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) and Achievement First, which manage charter schools in NYC and elsewhere. NYC charter schools are both touted and blasted in the popular media as being the new favored charities of, for example, wealthy hedge fund managers. The extent that NYC charters have become philanthropic favorites means that NYC charter schools may be quite different from those in places like Missouri or Arizona, distant from the NYC philanthropic culture. In fact, even charter schools in Albany and Buffalo or across the river in New Jersey may be insulated from this unique financial setting. Therefore, additional philanthropic resources may explain a great deal of the claimed success of NYC charter schools. If this is the case, attempts to replicate or scale up these supposed successes would be more difficult and costly than assumed.This brief offers concrete information about NYC charters and their finances to help ground these important policy discussions.This brief is published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), and is one of a series of briefs made possible in part by funding from The Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Private Schooling in the U.S.: Expenditures, Supply, and Policy Implications

August 18, 2009

This report provides a first-of-its-kind descriptive summary of private school expenditures. It includes comparisons of expenditures among different types and affiliations of private schools, and it also compares those expenditures with public school expenditures for districts in the same state and labor market. Results indicate that (1) the less-regulated private school sector is more varied in many key features (teacher attributes, pay and school expenditures) than the more highly regulated public schooling sector; (2) these private school variations align and are largely explained by affiliation -- primarily religious affiliation -- alone; and (3) a ranking of school sectors by average spending correlates well with a ranking of those sectors by average standardized test scores.