Public School Funding in the United States

Topic: Education System
Words: 912 Pages: 3


The current funding of public schools in the U.S.A is built on a multi-level system that addresses the diverse needs of students on national, state, and local levels. While it provides a number of benefits, such as the ability to receive funding for specific programs, it also poses numerous difficulties, the primary of which is the generation of inequity among students. As such, it is crucial to understand which areas of funding must be modified in order to increase the welfare of students.

America’s Public School’s Foundation Process

The exact movement of financial support from government bodies into a classroom is diverse not only in different states but varies on the various levels. The process is likely to begin with an assessment of allocation methods and the use of resources in order to determine the needs of state education organizations and local schools (OECD, 2019). The flow of money from federal, state, and local entities varies and follows unique regulations. However, the majority of the time, each government body provides for specific needs within the system (OECD, 2019). Federal agencies provide grants to address specific student needs. State funds adhere to the specific guidelines of each state, after which a state-wide budget can be determined and allocated appropriately. Funds granted by the state share more in common with federal funding, as they are primarily used for specific expenditures. Local resources support nearly 50% of all local school funding through property tax. As such, wealthier areas are more likely to have higher tax brackets and provide local schools with better funding and thereby generating nationwide inequity.

The Main Sources of Income for Primary and Secondary Schools in USA

Both primary and secondary schools in the U.S.A find funding from three primary resources, which include local, federal, and state funding. State and local resources are central in the direct contribution to the functions of schools, while federal funding usually occurs as a result of grants and specialized programs. As such, the current model of funding allows schools to reject federal financial support in the case that a school does not want to participate in the programs that the funding is supporting (American University, 2020). The decision to accept programs for local schools is made at the state level of governance. Private entities may also be a part of the funding process but feature less consistent and infrequent participation in overall nationwide education funding.

Percentage of Funding from Each Source

Currently, approximate 48% of funding is obtained from state resources which include sales tax, fees, and income taxes. Another 44% are sourced locally, majority of these funds are the result of property taxes of local homeowners (Farrie et al., 2019). Federal resources supply the final 8% of the funding, primarily through grants and services that allocate resources to students that require them. The majority of the funding is provided by local and state resources. In certain areas or situations, private entities may also contribute to the funding, sometimes with portions as high as 9% of funding, but are rarely a consistent factor in national education funding.

Litigation of Schools Financing

Modern research indicates that while it is unclear whether the spending on teacher training, additional programs, or other elements leads to greater academic achievement, higher spending generally results in the improvement of the abilities of students. As such, data suggest that decreased spending in any educational situation is likely to be detrimental to students (Baker et al., 2020). Policy and litigation in favor of more equitable and high expenditure on all levels, but especially the federal, corresponds to meeting nationwide education goals. Despite this, debates continue to arise over not only the appropriate allocation of resources but even whether current levels of spending should be maintained. This is most often questioned on a federal level, where legislators are prone to decrease spending on education.

The Case of Pennsylvania Schools

The prolonged case of schools in Pennsylvania is a primary example of the issues with the current funding system and its contribution to inequity. The disparities among local schools in Pennsylvania are incredibly high, with many students having much fewer resources spent on them than in other schools (Cohen, 2022). Similarly, nonwhite students are disproportionately affected by inequality. The current litigation conflict between the advocates for more equitable spending in the state and federal authorities is structured on determining whether the current system is appropriate due to the rising issues. The case is based on equity, as current funding is lacking, but a more detrimental issue of poor allocation is affecting students more drastically.


In conclusion, it should be noted that the public education system of the USA is one of the main areas in which financial resources are invested at different rungs of the executive branch ladder. Public school funding is characterized by and dependent on state and local government funding for most of its resources. Federal financing plays a vital role in introducing and delivering specialized programs and grants, many of which may or may not be determined to be valuable at the state level. In a highly decentralized environment, local funding also plays an important role. It defines a school’s ability to increase expenditure, mainly through the property tax value. Thus, it is easy to see the disparity between schools in the same state receiving the same condition and federal funding. Numerous cases, such as the ongoing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, are integral to addressing the inequities and disparities affecting students’ abilities.


Baker, B. D., Srikanth, A., Cotto, R., & Green, P. (2020). School funding disparities and the plight of Latinx children. Education Policy Analysis Archive, 28(135). Web.

Cohen, R. M. (2022). School funding lawsuits are long, frustrating, and crucial for fighting inequality. Vox. Web.

Farrie, D., Kim, R., & Sciarra, D. G. (2019). Making the grade 2019: How fair is school funding in your state? A guide for advocates and policymakers. Education Law Center. Web.

Inequality in public school funding: Key issues & solutions for closing the gap. (n.d.). Web.

OECD. (2017). The funding of school education: Main findings and policy pointers. Web.

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