May 28, 2021

Bruce Baker: Filling Our Nation’s Funding Gaps

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Earlier this year, Bruce Baker, Mark Weber and Matt Di Carlo released a report detailing the gaps in school funding, district by district across the nation. As we look at the question of where and how to spend a large pile of federal money, this is a useful resource, including maps to visualize where the spending gaps exist.

State school finance systems state accountability systems for schools have historically been disjoint. On the one hand, we use state assessment data and other outcome measures to declare schools or districts good or bad – exceptional or failing. But rarely do we design and implement school funding systems that are actually built upon estimates of a) the costs of achieving the desired outcome levels, on average, or b) how those costs vary from one setting and child to the next. That is, we don’t design state school finance systems to deliver the funding that would provide each school or district with equal opportunity to hit the targets we set in state accountability policies. Thus, we necessarily create an unfair playing field. This is true in every state, though some more than others. We’ve rarely even considered how these disparities play out across states. That is, whether children in Mississippi should have equal opportunity to achieve outcomes similar to children in Massachusetts, and what that might cost.

Here’s what those funding gaps look like with respect to costs to achieve national average outcomes, for 2019, based on a model fit to data on spending, outcomes and various other school and district characteristics from 2009 to 2018.

Baker’s look at the report is fascinating and helpful in looking at where the underfunded districts are in this country. Read his piece about the report here.

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