Last month, Education Law Center released the 4th edition of the National Report Card, “Is School Funding Fair?” The picture is bleak: the vast majority of states are not funding public schools adequately or equitably; the fiscal retrenching connected with the Great Recession has not been reversed; and at-risk students are not being provided with the resources they need to succeed.
Bottom line: disinvestment in public education continues in most states, along with the unequal distribution of funding, depriving American schoolchildren of the resources they deserve and must have to succeed in school.
But one bright spot is the growing interest in learning more about the underfunding of our nation’s public schools and how the lack of resources is a significant obstacle to improving student outcomes.
This year’s National Report Card resonated with journalists, editorial writers, commentators and radio hosts across the country. A broad array of national, state and local media reported on how particular states ranked on the Report Card and how states compared to their neighbors and to states across the country. Media outlets also found the national trends in public education finance presented in the Report Card important and compelling news for their audiences.
Coverage of the Report Card included “Inequitable School Funding Called the Sleeper Civil Rights Issue of Our Time” (Washington Post), “Nation’s Disinvestment in Public Schools Crippling Poor Students, Report Finds” (Education Week), “This is Where School Funding is the Least ‘Fair,’ According to New Reports” (Huffington Post) and “Few States Set Aside More Funds for High-Poverty Schools, Report Says” (McClatchyDC). These and other stories focused on the many states that still do not adequately fund their public schools and that provide less funding to schools with high concentrations of poor and needy students.
State and local media hewed closer to home: “Report: Pa. Gets a ‘D’ for School Funding Distribution” (Philadelphia Daily News), “Colorado School Finances Get Failing Grade” (Journal-Advocate) and “Post-Recession, School Funding Continues to Suffer Greatly along with Students, Teachers” (Kansas City Star).
Several editorial pages weighed in, including the Charlotte Observer with “NC’s Flunking Grade” and the Columbian in Washington State with “In Our View: 21st Century Education – Providing One for All Washington Students Should be Lawmakers Top Goal.” Public radio stations and education bloggers, including Diane Ravitch, also featured the report and its findings.
News outlets didn’t simply share the school funding information made available in the Report Card. They helped inform the public about what “fair” school funding means and that it includes both an adequate funding level and the distribution of funding based on student and school need. This reporting helped shine a light on the growing number of poor children being educated in the nation’s public schools, and the urgent need to provide those children with additional funding to overcome their challenges.
“We are gratified by the attention paid to the National Report Card,” said David Sciarra, Education Law Center Executive Director and report co-author. “The message is spreading that school funding matters. States are recovering from the Great Recession, but in many cases families are not, and their children come to school needing additional supports. The states that provide those supports – from preschool to sufficient staff and services – see improved student outcomes.”
“The Report Card provides valuable information, but the key is what we as a nation do with that information,” Mr. Sciarra added. “Will we provide our children with the opportunity to succeed in school and in life, or will we continue to shortchange them?”
Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card is coauthored by Bruce Baker of the Rutgers Graduate School of Education; David Sciarra, Executive Director of Education Law Center (ELC); and Danielle Farrie, Research Director for ELC. Please visit www.schoolfundingfairness.org to download the report and to explore the findings with interactive data tools.
Policy and Outreach Director
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