School Funding in America Local State and Federal Levels

The funding of American schools is a fascinating and complex phenomenon that is based on historical, political, cultural and socioeconomic concerns. At its most basic and grassroots level, funding comes from state and local governments as well as private donations. The federal government does, to a certain extent, play a role in funding. However, it is often at the discretion of the state as to whether they want to accept federal money. This is because acceptance is often attached to specific guidelines that states must adhere to prior to receiving the funds.

While school districts annually place levies on the ballots on Election Day, these levies often do not pass. Voters often voice their criticism, apprehension and frustration at how they perceive funding, if approved, is utilized and misappropriated. Although a levy may not pass, funding is still provided by the value of property; in other words homeowners pay a school tax based on the value of their home. Therefore, those school communities located near homes and businesses with the highest property values may stand to benefit the most financially. For a parent then to ensure that their youngster is getting the most amount of funding spent on them, the parent must move to those communities with the highest property value.

However, does more funding equal success for more children? Research on this topic begs to show that more money spent on each child does not always necessarily spell success. Therefore, if statistics show that schools within the higher-property-value communities do better, many people ask why more money should be allocated to under-achieving schools.

Although, as previously stated, most funding comes from state and local government, federal funding is still a constant and ever-changing factor, and some federal programs have proven to be quite successful. For example, the Washington D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (i.e., DCOSP) was one in which low-income students within the Washington D.C. School District could obtain vouchers to attend private schools. The program was a success; a higher percentage of students enrolled in this program completed school than those who attended public school.

A United States President has the power to place into law educational funding that could be provided to all states. For example, during the Barak Obama presidency, a preschool program was proposed (i.e., Preschool for All). This program was one that would be helpful to all young low-income children across the nation. However, other programs that assisted just a single school district, such as the previously mentioned DCOSP, although successful, were omitted from future budgets.  In other words, the funding was no longer in place for the program.

School funding is and will always be a tug-of-war based on the current political climate and the power within. What has defined history will also help define the face of future generations. The hope would be that future funding issues be wisely and expeditiously placed in the hands of capable individuals who will find the most meaningful and beneficial ways of utilizing these funds for the betterment of society’s children and the future good of a nation.