Education in America is notoriously variable, depending on factors like location, average population, income, and many other elements. Among the reasons for fluctuation in quality and access is the noticeable education funding gaps for school districts across the United States. Each state, county, and district has funding requirements and availability, leaving room for wide gaps in financial support. What is the impact of these funding gaps on students, and what can be done to close these barriers in education? Here is a brief overview of the topic.
How big is the funding gap in the US?
The average per-pupil spending for each state in the nation exposes the wide gap. For example, Alaska receives the most funding from the federal government, at $2,678 per student. However, according to Education Data, this can be compared to Utah, which only receives $672 for each student from the federal government. In addition, schools receive funding and support from the state, though this is equally variable.
On the other hand, states also spend money on their students at different rates. Regarding K-12 spending, New York spends the most on average per student at $25,520. While North Dakota has low funding, they also pay the least concerning taxpayer income in the area. The sweeping difference happens because allocation is usually decided at the state level and is based on the location’s economy and willingness to dedicate money to public schools.
What is the impact?
Some states strive to increase their funding and the efficient usage of money, while others are being left behind. This varied funding in America has a severe impact on students. Public education is meant to be accessible, but not every student receives the same opportunities based on their location, or income status can impact their career and future salaries.
For example, some schools can offer their pupils new textbooks that have the most up-to-date information, while others have to make do with books that are years old. In addition, teachers can use modern instructional tools to bring their lessons to the next level. Still, some educators are forced to use makeshift presentation equipment and pay for devices out of their pockets. According to the nonprofit Adopt A Classroom, the average teacher spends $750 of their own money for school supplies during the 2020-2021 calendar year.
Reform and solutions
The serious gaps in education and funding in the American school system have not gone unnoticed. Several states are working toward reform to serve better the students who live there. For example, we can look at the state governments’ changes in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey. According to the School of Education, these states added more funding to “economically disadvantaged students,” provided more professional development for teachers, and invested more in pre-K programs.
Many of the reform efforts must begin at the local level. Because so many individual factors are at play from one school to another, the changes must be tailored to the population they serve. There is not necessarily a blanket solution to close the funding gap, but investing in the school districts and students that need it the most is an excellent place to start.
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