Friday Finance 101: School Finance Formula & Money Matters Basics

School Finance 101

Modern state school finance formulas – aid distribution formulas – typically strive (but fail) to achieve two simultaneous objectives: 1) accounting for differences in the costs of achieving equal educational opportunity across schools and districts, and 2) accounting for differences in the ability of local public school districts to cover those costs. Local district ability to raise revenues might be a function of either or both local taxable property wealth and the incomes of local property owners, thus their ability to pay taxes on their properties.

Figure 1 presents a hypothetical example of the distribution of state and local revenue per pupil across school districts, sorted by poverty concentration. The hypothetical relies on the simplified assumption that districts with weaker local revenue raising capacity also tend to be higher in poverty concentration. While that’s not uniformly true, there is often at least some correlation between the two [it serves…

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