Adjusting the School Funding Formula for a More Equitable Learning Environment

A new report from the Education Law Center (ELC), a research organization that advocates for fair education funding across the U.S., highlights the need for updates to how Georgia supports our most disadvantaged students.

Additional Funding for Low-Income Students in Other States

Kentucky adds a multiplier of 1.15 to the per pupil funding for students experiencing poverty. North Carolina allocates more funding to districts with concentrated levels of poverty, and California supports students with a mixture of both approaches. For a full explanation of each state’s funding model, click here.

It comes as no surprise that education research shows students who live in poverty arrive at school with several challenges. Insufficient access to basic resources like transportation or health care affects a child’s capacity to function optimally in school. The ELC report recognizes the needs of these students and proposes shifting existing funds and adding additional dollars to provide more opportunities. Additional funding for these students does not solve all academic issues, but it has the potential to boost student outcomes.

One option for improving academic outcomes for low-income students is to integrate a funding weight for poverty into the existing Quality Basic Education formula (QBE), which Georgia uses to allocate funds to school districts. The QBE formula has a funding weight for career and technical education, gifted classes and programs for English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), among others. The extra funding for these programs provides additional support for student success.

In contrast, the report notes that Georgia is one of only eight states in the nation that do not account for the disproportionate challenges faced by students living in poverty with additional funding. The other 42 states supplement the base funding with a weighted measure of additional funds for the resources necessary to accommodate students experiencing poverty. Some states do this by adding a multiplier to the base level funding, while others increase funding for districts with high concentrations of poverty.

Additional funding for low-income students can fund transportation, additional teachers, emotional and mental health support, expanded curriculum and programming that offer a plethora of services students need to do well in school and in life. Georgia has ways to support these students already built into the education funding formula, but they have tended to be restrictive or inadequately supportive of students who would benefit most. This report from the Education Law Center is a welcome addition to the ongoing discussion of how the state of Georgia can provide a world-class education for all students.

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