If you worry about inequity in wealth and income and in policing and incarceration, you should keep digging to uncover what might be the biggest source of inequity in America–school funding.

American education is largely a local affair including a historical dependence on local property taxes to fund schools (still over a third of average school revenue) leaving America the only developed country where students from rich families get more education funding than students from low-income families.

The idiosyncratic reliance on local education authorities makes American education unusually inefficient–half of all K-12 employees aren’t teachers. We have a bureaucratic mess with too many rules and too many school districts. Nearly half of all districts nationally have fewer than 1,000 students. All 14,000 districts (and 7,000 charter schools) administer complicated federal and state programs. (And they’re all trying to figure out pandemic education largely on their own).

We have an allocation problem and an efficiency problem. Both stem from the inefficient governance model we inherited. That and a lack of transparency keeps the financial and opportunity costs hidden, making it a gnarly problem to solve.

Let’s start with allocation: education funding–and, more broadly, resource allocation– should reflect the challenges learners bring to school, not the family wealth as expressed in property tax. Changing the allocation of education funding is a complicated multi-level affair. State policy is the big driver but the decisions of local education authorities (LEA)–the school districts, charter schools, and networks where resources are ultimately allocated.

There are eight opportunities to invent new resource allocation systems:

  1. Weighted Funding
  2. Special Needs.
  3. Flexibility.
  4. Staffing.
  5. Portability.
  6. Facilities.
  7. Connectivity.
  8.  Incentives.

Read the full article about school funding mechanisms by Tom Vander Ark at Getting Smart.