Public Education Funding

A number of issues swirl around the problems of public education but these concerns dominate conversations regarding school finance:

Private and public good of education

Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations discusses, at length, the importance of an educated populace. Studies show comparisons of the cost of one year of school to the cost of one year of prison demonstrating that prison is far more costly. Though the links between education and prisons are debatable, evidence suggests a strong correlation between lack of education and likelihood of committing a crime and being incarcerated. States with low-dropout rates have a lower rate of incarceration.

The public good comes into question as well when considering how school districts set their boundaries, granting and limiting access to students based on their physical and financial positions in the community. Debates over the borders of school districts frequently involve issues of race and class.


Responding to criticisms of failures of management because of highly centralized structures, site-based management has come to the fore as a way to improve academic performance with localized solutions.

Concept of fiscal federalism

Funding is multi-layered. While it is generally the local tax base which is responsible for supporting the schools, a certain amount of funding is also passed on from the state and federal levels. Recently, as the federal government reduces support for education the schools are forced into painful fiscal adjustments as promised moneys never arrive.

The funding of programs for students with special mental or physical needs and the extent of access, inclusion, and opportunity provided to such students.


Equal opportunity
(Title IX, No Child Left Behind, Brown v. Board of Education, Proposition 13)