Dive Brief:

  • Per-pupil spending would increase for the majority of students in the nation — 69% — if local property tax revenues for schools were pooled at the county or state level, according to a new report from EdBuild, a nonprofit focusing on education funding equity.
  • In 49 states, funding for nonwhite students and those eligible for the National School Lunch Program would increase or stay the same under such a model. And on average, funding per student would increase by almost $1,000.
  • “Schools can do a lot with that money,” the authors write, providing a list of examples. “Districts could increase the average annual teacher’s salary for these students by 26%. Many more school counselors could be hired, nine more per school building. One additional teacher’s assistant could be hired for every other classroom.”

Dive Insight:

While EdBuild’s work on the “Clean Slate” project began before the pandemic, CEO Rebecca Sibilia notes the crisis now forces policymakers “into a yet inconceivable challenge; to provide and protect the resources that our schools will so desperately need.” 

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank, estimates state budget shortfalls to be $765 billion over the next three years — worse than during the Great Recession. And states are already cutting education initiatives and spending increases from their budgets that they were planning for in January.

The report includes detailed tables showing how much funding would increase under either a county- or state-level pooling approach and what percentage of students would benefit. In some states, such as Utah and Mississippi, the bump would only be a few hundred dollars. But in Connecticut, for instance, the average increase would be as much as $4,700 per student, and more than $5,700 for nonwhite students. 

Opponents of changing existing school finance systems often say such reforms would be a threat to local control. But the report says if school funding and school governance were “decoupled,” new tax boundaries could be drawn that still maintain school systems. Some counties and states have a version of this system, with California, Wyoming and Vermont listed as examples. 

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