Funding Distribution

This measures the distribution of funding across local districts within a state, relative to student poverty. 

The measure shows whether a state provides funding to schools based on their poverty concentration, using simulations ranging from 0% to 30% child poverty. 

Here we seek to describe the distribution of funding to Michigan school districts within the state relative to student poverty. This measure can address the key question of whether the state funding system recognizes the additional resources required to provide an equal educational opportunity in settings of concentrated student poverty.

Our thinking and context

Not all school districts are receiving the funds needed to provide the resources necessary for educational success, or not all school districts are properly allocating the funds available to do so, as evident by the poor academic performance (Arsen et al., 2019; Baker et al., 2018). As a result, it can be assumed that these students are being put at a disadvantage or not being given the same educational opportunities as those students who have better financial systems and access to more educational resources (Baker et al, 2018). 

Resources needed to benefit students’ education. 

Although all school districts pay for various factors impacting a student’s education, the exact amount and the combination of resources required in a certain district varies based on the characteristics of that district (Augenblick Palaick, Picus, Odden, & Associates, 2018). Costs for these resources can differ for various reasons, some of which are in the control of the school’s officials, such as choices about class size or curricular options, while others, such as the size of the district, characteristics of the students (poverty, need for special education, etc.), or geographic location, are not (Augenblick et al., 2018). 

School districts that have these cost factors usually need more resources to attain the same performance levels as other districts (Augenblick et al., 2018). Some of these needed resources include personnel, such as;

  • classroom teachers, other teachers, psychologists, counselors, librarians, teacher aides, administration, nurses, etc), 
  • other personnel costs (such as substitute teachers, time for professional development), non-personnel costs (such as supplies, materials, equipment costs like textbook replacements or consumables, and costs for extracurricular activities),
  • non-traditional programs and services (such as programs for before and after school, preschool, or summer), 
  • technology (such as hardware, software, and licensing fees), and 
    transportation costs (Augenblick et al., 2019).

To begin with, the most important resource for educating students is personnel (teachers, administrators, aides support staff, etc.) according to several studies (Augenblick et al., 2018; Arsen et al., 2019). In fact, Leachman, Masterson, and Figueroa (2017) state how other research suggests that the quality of teachers is the most important school-based factor that determines student success, so recruiting, advancing, and maintaining teachers that are of high quality is crucial for improving academic performance (Leachman et al., 2017; Archibald, 2006). The importance of these teachers and other personnel is indicated through the fact that a large number of any district’s funds are spent on their salaries and benefits, according to Augenblick et al. (2018), who cites the study of Odden and Picus (2014).

In addition, school infrastructure is an important factor that affects many aspects of education (Arsen et al., 2019; Augenblick et al., 2018). As Augenblick et al. (2018) mentions, school facilities are needed to support educational programming, maintain student and staff health and well-being, and sustain community development and engagement, while inadequate facilities would keep students from reaching their potential (Augenblick et al., 2018; Arsen et al., 2019). The school’s infrastructure affects how well teachers are able to teach students and affects the ability of students to learn as well, as they need to have sufficient quality and amount of space to do these things (Arsen et al., 2019).

Furthermore, transportation, technology,  instructional materials, and programs and services are other factors funds are distributed to (Augenblick et al., 2018; Arsen et al., 2019). Transportation would be a necessary resource to allow students to go to and from school. School districts in Michigan spend about $500 per pupil a year from general fund revenues on transportation for students (Arsen et al., 2019). And the opportunity to work with up-to-date technology is becoming increasingly important for educational settings in order to prepare students for future high-skill job opportunities (Arsen et al., 2019). To assist teachers in bolstering student success, school districts also need to pay for and should continue to purchase, curriculum and instructional materials that will benefit student education (Arsen et al. 2019; Augenblick et al., 2018). Special programs, such as professional development for teachers, before- and after-school programs, preschool, and summer school programs, that give students more educational opportunities would also cost money to provide (Augenblick et al., 2018; Arsen et al., 2019).

To provide a slightly different view, Fermanich (2003) mentions how some researchers suggest that schools and teachers may only have a limited impact on improving student performance alone. He suggests that the effect of resources on the success of students may be indirect, helping the process that influences the quality of instruction, so how the resources are used is as significant as the amount of resources available (Fermanich, 2003). It’s important to note that this study is from 2003, so more research may need to be done in order to generalize Fermanich’s (2003) findings.

To improve the equity and adequacy of funding distribution and Michigan’s school finance system, it is suggested that the level of funds for districts be raised and that the need for various amounts and combinations of resources be accommodated for based on the characteristics of the differing districts (Baker et al., 2018; Augenblick et al., 2018). In other words, more funds should  be given to districts based on each district’s individual characteristics and needs so that these schools can provide students the various resources necessary to succeed academically. Disadvantaged districts should be accommodated for the additional costs they are required to pay (Leachmen et al., 2017; Baker et al., 2018). 

Going forward, more research needs to be done on where the additional revenue needed to fund educational resources would come from (Augenblick et al., 2018). 

To get a better understanding of how to improve Michigan’s school system and finance system, it’d be worthwhile to recognize that funds are being distributed to help finance these costs and realize that these resources are necessary for students to have more adequate educational opportunities and better academic performance (Augenblick et al., 2018; Arsen et al., 2019; Leachman et al., 2017)

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