Sources Education Funding

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State and Local Financing of Public Schools​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

The funding of public elementary and secondary schools in the United States involves a combination of local, state, and federal government revenues, in proportions that vary substantially both across and within states. According to the most recent data, state governments provide 47.0% of these revenues, local governments provide 44.8%, and the federal government provides 8.3%. Over the last several decades, the share of public elementary and secondary education revenues provided by state governments has increased, the share provided by local governments has decreased, and the federal share has varied within a range of 6.0% to 12.7%. The primary source of local revenues for public elementary and secondary education is the property tax, while state revenues are raised from a variety of sources, primarily personal and corporate income and retail sales taxes, a variety of “excise” taxes such as those on tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, and lotteries in several states.

All states (but not the District of Columbia) provide a share of the total revenues available for public elementary and secondary education. This state share varies widely, from approximately 25% in Illinois to almost 90% in Hawaii and Vermont. The programs through which state funds are provided to local educational agencies (LEAs) for public elementary and secondary education have traditionally been categorized into five types: (1) Foundation Programs, (2) Full State Funding Programs, (3) Flat Grants, (4) District Power Equalizing, and (5) Categorical Grants. Of these, Foundation Programs are the most common, although many states use a combination of program types.

A goal of all of the various types of state school finance programs is to provide at least some limited degree of “equalization” of spending and resources, and/or local ability to raise funds, for public elementary and secondary education across all of the LEAs in the state. Such programs often establish target levels of funding “per pupil.” The “pupil” counts involved in these programs may simply be based on total student enrollment as of some point in time, or they may be a “weighted” count of students, taking into account variations in a number of categories—special pupil needs (e.g., disabilities, low family income, limited proficiency in English), grade levels, specific educational programs (e.g., career and technical education), or geographic considerations (e.g., student population sparsity or local variation in costs of providing education).​​​​​​​

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What is a school voucher?​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

At a Glance

  • School vouchers redirect public education funds for tuition to private schools.
  • Not all states offer school vouchers.
  • Private schools are not required to offer the same special education services that public schools offer.

States offer school voucher programs as a way to give parents choices in what school their child attends. Parents receive funds to use toward the cost of private school. (Not all states allow vouchers to be used at schools affiliated with a religion, however.) In some cases, they may also be used for homeschooling​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.​​​​​​​

At a Glance

  • Some states allow homeschoolers to participate in public school classes and extracurricular activities.
  • In other states, the decision is left up to individual school districts.
  • Check with your school district to find out what resources are available.

Homeschooling can be a good option for some kids with learning and thinking differences. It allows parents to work closely with their kids. And there are generally fewer distractions at home than at a school.

But learning at home does have some potential drawbacks. One of them is limited social interaction. Another is limited or nonexistent services.

Fortunately, there are public resources available to homeschoolers that can make those less of an issue. (Unschooling, a type of homeschooling, relies less on a curriculum and encourages children to learn based on their passions and interests. The same regulations and resources apply to both unschooling and homeschooling families.). READ MORE ...​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Public Resources Available to Homeschoolers​​​​​​​