School Funding

In the United States, school funding money comes from various sources. School funding has become a rather controversial issue at the current time because many people associate the dollar amount invested in a school system with the academic achievement of its students. The two factors don’t often coincide as desired.

The US government accounts for about 8.5% of public school funding dollars, according to data presented by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2005. Federal funding is based upon the No Child Left Behind Act, championed by President George W. Bush, and the source of increasing controversy for several reasons.

In general, state governments provide about 48% of the money needed for school funding within its borders but the percentage varies by state. In Hawaii, for example, the state government supplies more than 90% of the school funding money needed for its public schools.

Local governments are additional sources for school funding and are thought to contribute about 42% of the funding money needed for local public schools. In many jurisdictions, property taxes make up the remainder of the school funding.

It’s the property tax issue that generates a great deal of controversy in the school funding issue. Property taxes are mandatory and they fund public schools only. Public schools provide education from kindergarten through high school graduation.

One of the controversial issues associated with property taxes as a means of public school funding is when a parent chooses to send a student to a private or parochial school instead of a public facility. These parents must pay often-expensive tuition to these schools and feel it is unfair to be forced to pay also for a public school system their own children do not attend. Parents who home-school their children voice similar concerns.

Property owners who have no children in a particular school district are often unhappy paying property taxes for school funding, too, especially when property values have risen as dramatically as they have in certain locations in recent years. People with no children at all, those who own vacation homes with residence in a different school system, and those who have grown children no longer attending public school often feel overburdened by the responsibility of school funding of a school to which they have no ties.

Another issue of concern with today’s system of school funding in the US is the association between money invested and academic achievement. Several studies conducted in schools across the country have proven that this link between the two factors does not exist.

A 2005 international study places the US and Switzerland in a tied position as the country that has the biggest school funding budget, at about $11,000 per student. Although the US expenditure is highest in the world, except for Switzerland, the academic achievement is far behind.

In fact, a recent study of 21 countries ranks US high school seniors very near the bottom of the list for academic achievement in three core subjects. They ranked 16 out of 21 for science, 19 for math, and were at the bottom of the list altogether for advanced physics.

Public school funding in the US grew by 212% between 1960 and 1995.