During his 2020 presidential campaign, one of the pillars Joe Biden consistently spoke on was education and the changes that would be made under his leadership. He even had his wife, Dr. Jill Biden speak every where about her love for educators as an educator. But despite the fact during every general election, you hear a candidate talk about all the things they will do to improve education. The truth is that academic control is a lot closer than you think.

A Birds Eye View

K-12 Education is supported through a combination of local, state and federal funding. Research from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation showed that 93% of education funding is provided via the local and state governments. And distribution of those funds vary depending on the state and even the source of the funding. Clearly, this type of system can be inherently detrimental not only when is comes to management of the funds but ensuring funds are allocated properly for the schools and students.

The US Department of Education shows that elementary and secondary schools totaled about $871 million in revenue for 2021-2022, although recent data shows that overall the US educational system is underfunded by 150 billion. Each state abides by their own formulas to determine what their budget for education is. Many factors like income and even linguistics factor what the formula will be.

For K-12 federal funding, here are a few of the “buckets” that determine how local and state departments what their number(s) will be for that year. First, there is Title I grants under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Each state determines a student’s eligibility for ESEA funding based on if they come from a low income family, if that family receives TANF payments and if the student is in foster home or a delinquent. After that assessment, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) grants are funded through the government. IDEA formulas are based on the amount of people between the ages of 3 and 21 who are disabled and living in poverty. Additional programs like Magnet Schools, Dropout Demonstration Assistance, and Gifted and Talented are federally funded. And finally, federal funds are used towards the child nutrition programs that service schools across the nation.

With all these factors in play, states suffering from huge economic disparities and a high non-English speaking populations tend to receive more federal funding for K-12 education than others. Last year, California received the most federal funding at $43.6 billion and Texas came in second with $26.9 billion.

State Funding for Education

This is where things start looking different. K-12 education funding is by far the largest expenditure for states across the nation. School districts with a lower capacity to raise their own funding on the local level sustain themselves through state funding. For example, Massachusetts is ranked #1 in the country for public schools and subsequently is the second-most educated state. According to WalletHub, Massachusetts has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country – currently at 10.4% – it also has the highest GDP (gross domestic product) per capital in the U.S. This means that most families in the state of Massachusetts make enough income to invest in their local school districts. Simply stated, the intentional investment by Bay Staters in their K-12 educational system results in the state having less income inequality than other high-income states like Texas.

Speaking of Texas, the landscape for state funding in education looks quite different. Per the Texas Comptrollers office, state funding is based on a study of the locally appraised property values conducted by the Texas Comptroller’s office. State law requires the Comptroller’s office to study the total taxable value of property in each Texas school district, as reported by appraisal districts, at least every two years. Even with that formula, the way each school district determines these values is based on a combination of CTRs (compressed tax rate) and M&Os (maintenance and operations tax rate).

Everything is done through the funding division of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), which administers the Foundation School Program (FSP). Texas has a large non-English speaking population due to their close proximity to the Mexican border and generational immigrant residency of . The lone star state also has one of the least percentages for high school diploma holders and has been the least ranked educated state for years. With language, income and developmental abilities factoring into state funding, it’s understandable why Texas continues to struggle with meeting the demand for proper educational budgets.

Dallas and Nearby Districts

DISD (Dallas Independent School District) Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde stated earlier this year that the entire state is about 7 billion short of what’s actually needed to sustain and battle inflation. This statement came not too long after Plano & Richardson ISD held a press conference on the education budgets this past May.

About 85-90% of local school funding comes from local area taxes. Meaning the school’s budgets are mainly dependent on the taxable income of those who live in the neighborhood. So if one lives in a more neighborhood, more than likely their school will have a myriad of issues like staffing sustainability.

On April 27th, House Bill 100 was sent to Texas Senate to have more funding supplied by the state. Supporters of the bill, like the President of the Richardson ISD board of trustees, Regina Hill, believe that schools being fully funded by the state will solve many problems in education overall. Having funding from the state will not only bring relief to the teacher shortages, but also provide a more equal playing field for the students themselves. From an economic standpoint, this would be advantageous to Additionally, this will alleviate pressures for poorer families to relocate or endure financial distress in order for their child to receive a decent education.

On the heels of Houston removing librarians from K-12 schools to constant arguments between families and administrators on curriculum, Texas has more than it’s fair share of problems within it’s educational system. One thing that can be resolved is proper funding allocation. With the increase of higher income families placing their children in private or charter schools, there needs to be balance. State funding is critical to substitute what poorer income families can’t provide. Although we’ve seen many administrators and economic analyst suggest an increased budget, as always it will be ultimately up to the constituents of local and state representatives to apply the pressure for change.

This story is brought to you by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in partnership with Word In Black.

Jess Washington is the CEO and Director of Finance for the Dallas Weekly. Her job is to oversee company operations, develop strategic relationships both in the community and for marketing service partnerships.