How Are Schools In The U.S. Funded?

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The question of how schools in the U.S. are funded does not have a simple answer. Schools in the US are funded in accordance with the level of school. For private schools, the answer is often much different than public schools, although as many state governments have cut their budgets, public schools are increasingly relying on donations similar to private schools. However, most schools get their funding from the same type of sources, regardless of the percentages of the budget for each.

For most public schools the funding comes from three different levels. The federal government does not officially fund or govern education; this is within the purview of each state. However, the government does mete out a significant amount of funding to states for education based on criteria set by the federal government, therefore it does exert some influence over the state-run systems with its funding. The state governments gather and distribute a significant amount of funding for schools through state sales and income taxes, lotteries, and property taxes. Local governments also often contribute through their respective taxation systems as well.

Many raise serious questions about how our schools are funded. At over $12,000 on average being spent per student per year for education, the US is tied with Switzerland for the top spot in per-capita student expenditure. The Washington D.C. public school District has one of the highest funding levels in the US at about $13,000 per student annually. However, according to the statistics catalogued by the OECD (Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation); the results in this district are inexplicably poor. Whether this is due to improper usage of funds towards teacher resources, or the lack of opportunity for these students is unclear; however, it is clear that more money does not equal better education. Are the vast sums of tax dollars really having any effect on the realities of education? These questions do arise when you come to terms with the realization that these expenditures on the education sector aren't reaping the right rewards.

U.S. public schools lag behind in basic mathematics, reading and science despite such huge expenses on public education. Even more surprising is the fact that Washington D.C. has one of the poorest rankings in the quality of education in the US. Are teacher resources and the study skills of students to be blamed? Are the funds being drained away on areas that are not fundamental to basic education, such as sports and extracurricular activities (although these activities are important and should be available to students as well)? Is it instead government failure and corruption that is causing such waste of educational funding in the US? These questions need to be answered when we as taxpayers fund our public educational systems.

Private schools, on the other hand, are typically funded by a combination of tuition, gifts, and endowments. These schools seem to continually provide an overall higher quality of education to our students, but at a cost that not many families can shoulder. If our public school system could find a way to provide everyone a high quality education with the funding provided, it could provide every student the opportunity to succeed despite the economic situation of his or her family.

Resources On Funding for Schools

  1. Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation