There has been a lot of discussion for some time about how Kentucky is supposedly going backwards on school funding. We are being told the state’s high-poverty districts are now nearly back to where they were when the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA) was passed. Supposedly, KERA’s intended differential funding favoring districts with more poverty has declined recently.
So we are told.
Thus, I was interested to find a document issued by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) about a year ago that actually has data on the difference in total per pupil revenue for the lowest and highest poverty quartiles of school districts in each state. The table below summarizes the available data, which unfortunately isn’t either extensive or terribly recent, but it has had plenty of time for auditing and data cleaning to occur, and it is based on real dollars, not just estimates in a budget.
According to the NCES, in Fiscal Year 2015 (basically the 2014-15 school year) the districts with the lowest poverty level in Kentucky only got public school revenue of $10,339 total while the group of districts with the state’s highest poverty levels got $11,321 on average. The difference was nearly $1,000.
Furthermore, between Fiscal Year 2015 and Fiscal Year 2016, the difference between what the high- and low-poverty districts were getting grew by $56 per pupil to $1,038, so even more was going to the state’s highest poverty districts.
I am hoping to expand the table above shortly when the “Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2015–16 (Fiscal Year 2016)” publication gets updated with a new edition. The 2016 report is the source of the figures in the table above, and it seems to be the first report in this NCES series to examine funding across low to high poverty school districts.