What You Need to Know as an Educator: Understanding the Impact of Educational Funding

As an educator at some point in your career you will be faced with understanding the implications of educational funding. Therefore it is import to recognize the impacts of educational funding and how your district handles their funding.

Funding underpins the entire educational system and determines aspects as diverse as your salary, your benefits, the number of students in your classes, the textbooks you use, and the supplies you’ll be able to purchase for your pupils. Funding for education is derived from federal, state, and local sources. The origin of these resources can have an impact on where and how they are allocated and dispersed.

Nationally, $500 billion is spent on elementary and secondary education each year. Approximately 65% of this is channeled into employee salaries, with an additional 17% to fund staff benefits. The cost of maintaining educational infrastructures is also significant and accounts for a large proportion of the total annual amount spent on education. Buildings, equipment, and supplies are in constant need of repair, upkeep, and replacement, and the cost of utilities (e.g., heat, water, waste removal, and electricity) continues to rise. The U.S. Department of Education recently estimated that 25,000 schools across the nation required essential repairs to wiring, heating, lighting, and ventilation systems to keep them open and operating. The estimated cost of these repairs exceeded $112 billion.

Monies used to finance education come from a variety of sources—local, state, and federal departments all provide some proportion of funds. Before 1970, local jurisdictions were primarily responsible for funding schools within their boundaries. But concern emerged that children in poorer areas were not receiving an education equal to that of their peers in wealthier regions, due to the lower ability of poorer residents to pay comparable taxes. As a result, states are responsible for providing base amounts to districts for educational expenditures. The average educational budget typically consists of 48% state-garnered funds and 43% funds from local sources, with the federal government making up the remaining 9%. Funding varies greatly from state to state. The actual percentages vary greatly, depending on the economic situation of each state and the taxable incomes that can be levied against both its residents and corporations. Some states completely fund the shortfall left by federal monies, while others rely more heavily on local municipalities or even individual school districts themselves to provide funds for their schools.

Statistics indicate that some states traditionally spend more of their annual budget on education. Some states, such as Hawaii, accept almost total fiscal responsibility for financing education within their borders, generating 87% of its annual educational budget from its own coffers. The actual amount spent annually per student varies greatly as well, with the District of Columbia, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York spending more than $12,000 per student per year, while Arizona and Utah spend less than $6,000 per pupil. Typically, southwestern states provide less educational funding than do northeastern states. The cost of living and taxation rates are frequently lower in the Southwest, thus equalizing the apparent discrepancy.

What about the quality of education? Do students in less-funded states receive an education comparable to their peers in more richly funded states? Some researchers have concluded that certain factors related to funding—such as professional salaries, student/teacher ratios, small class sizes, new equipment, and access to materials and supplies—impact the quality of education that a student receives.

What do you think? Is the level of funding in your school district contributing to the success or hindrance of your students?

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