How Fair is School Funding in My State?

States must create school funding formulas that are transparent, fair, and clearly provide for the needs of individual students. Using criteria developed based on research, best practice, and what we believe, we provide ratings for each Southern state.

Our goal is for states to build a simplified, student-weighted funding formula guided by students’ different levels of need with the goals of eliminating achievement and opportunity gaps. We aim for states to create adequate, equitable, and transparent formulas that provide clear dollar allocations by assigning additional “weights” for students from low-income families, English learners, students with disabilities, and rural students.

Education Funding by State

Alabama

Arkansas

State of Georgia illustration

Georgia

State of Kentucky Illustration

Kentucky

State of Louisiana illustration

Louisiana

State of Mississippi illustration

Mississippi

State of North Carolina Illustration

North Carolina

State of South Carolina illustration

South Carolina

State of Tennessee illustration

Tennessee

State of Virginia illustration

Virginia

Ratings Rubric

Criteria
Red
Yellow
Green
FUND STUDENTS ADEQUATELY
The funding formula is
student-based, or weighted
Formula is resource- or program-based and allocates resources such as staff, services, or programs based in the form of “units” or ratios of students-to-staff position, or categorical grants that are not tied to actual student needs.Formula is a hybrid model, combining aspects of a student-based model, resource-based model, and various cost factors.Formula allocates a base, or defined amount of funding, on a per-student basis and allocates additional money or weights to provide additional money per student with specific needs, such as English learners
Per-pupil funding is adequate enough for all students to achieve average, national
test scores
There is high percentage (40-100%) of students attending schools in inadequately funded districtsThere is moderate percentage (40-10%) of students attending schools in inadequately funded districtsThere is a low percentage (0-10%) of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
Red
Yellow
Green
FUND STUDENT NEEDS APPROPRIATELY
Formula includes a weight or additional funding for students living in povertyFormula does not include weights or additional funding, includes very low funding (e.g. less than 10% of base amount), or includes flat fundingFormula includes insufficient weights or additional funding (e.g. 10-99% of base amount)Formula provides generous weights or additional funding (e.g. 100% or more of the base amount) for students
living in poverty
Formula includes a weight or additional funding for
English learners
Formula does not include weights or additional funding, or includes very low funding (e.g. less than 10% of base amount), or includes flat fundingFormula includes insufficient weights or additional funding (e.g. 10-99% of base amount)Formula provides generous weights or additional funding (e.g. 100% or more of the base amount) for
English learners
Formula includes a weight or additional funding for students
with disabilities
Formula does not include weights or additional funding, or bases funding not on student-based factors (e.g. staff positions)Formula includes weights or additional funding that is flat or does not differentiate between the types of disabilities students haveFormula includes a system of at least three to five funding tiers in which students are funded based on
their diagnoses
Formula includes a weight or additional funding for sparse and/or isolated districtsFormula does not include weights or additional fundingFormula includes insufficient weights or additional funding (e.g. 10-99% of base amount) or funding is not differentiated based on sparsity or isolationFormula includes a generous sliding scale weight for sparsity on a per-student basis and includes a flat weight for districts that are isolated
Formula includes weights or additional funding for districts with high levels of concentrated povertyFormula does not include a weight or additional fundingFormula includes a concentrated poverty weight that is insufficient or is static and not reflective of the needs of districts with higher levels
of poverty
Formula includes a generous, sliding scale weight that provides more funding to districts with higher percentages of student poverty
Red
Yellow
Green
FUND SCHOOL DISTRICTS EQUITABLY
State caps how much local revenue districts can raise to limit between-district disparities in local revenueThe state does not impose a cap on how much local revenue districts
can raise
The state imposes a cap but voters can override itThe state imposes a cap on how much local revenue districts can raise, and voters cannot override it
Red
Yellow
Green
FUND STUDENTS TRANSPARENTLY
State annually publishes information about how the funding system is designed to work in clear, plain languageSystem is not summarized (i.e., it’s only described through legislation language etc.)System is summarized, but the language used is full of jargon and is not understandable by a lay audience; the information is not easily found on the state department of education websiteSystem is summarized in clear, accessible language and can be easily found on the state department of
education website
State reports school spending data in alignment with
equity-oriented principles
State reporting is not aligned with equity-oriented reporting principlesState reporting is partially aligned with equity-oriented reporting principlesState reporting is aligned with equity-oriented reporting principles
PUBLIC FUNDS FUND PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Taxpayer funds are used to maintain and support public schools exclusivelyState allows public funds to fund private schooling, such as vouchers and education savings accounts (ESA), with no income eligibility requirements, accountability, or transparencyState limits vouchers or ESAs to families with low-income or students with disabilities with specific service needs that a public school cannot meet, and requires some accountability
and reporting
State does not have a publicly-funded private school voucher program or education savings accounts, keeping public education dollars in public school systems
Sources: EdBuild

Funding Justifications

STUDENT POVERTY
StateRatingReasoning
AlabamaRedThe formula only provides a small amount of increased funding for students from low-income
households via a prorated amount based on student count
ArkansasRedThe formula provides additional dollars to district based on district poverty levels, rather than funding based on individual students living in poverty
GeorgiaRedThe formula does not include a weight for poverty
KentuckyYellowThe formula includes a 15% weight for students living in poverty
LouisianaYellowThe formula includes a 22% weight for students living in poverty
MississippiRedThe formula includes a 5% weight for students living in poverty
North CarolinaRedThe formula funds poverty at the district level, not individual student poverty
South CarolinaYellowThe formula includes a 20% weight for students living in poverty
TennesseeYellowThe formula includes a 25% weight for students living in poverty
VirginiaRedThe formula provides additional dollars to district based on district poverty levels, rather than funding based on individual students living in poverty
English learners
StateRatingReasoning
AlabamaRedThe formula allocates funding based on the number of English learners in a district, not students' learning needs
ArkansasRedThe formula includes a flat amount per English learner, which amounts to 5% of the per-student base
GeorgiaGreenThe formula includes a 158% weight for English learners
KentuckyRedThe formula includes a 9.6% weight for English learners
LouisianaYellowThe formula provides a 22% weight for English learners
MississippiRedThe formula does not provide additional funding for English learners
North CarolinaYellowThe formula caps funding at 10.6% of the average daily membership, instead of being based on
learning needs of students
South CarolinaYellowThe formula includes a 20% weight for English learners
TennesseeYellowThe formula funds English learners at 3 different levels: 20%, 50%, and 70% of the per-student base
VirginiaRedThe formula assigns English learner resources based on student-to-teacher ratios and not
students' needs
Special Education (SPED)
StateRatingReasoning
AlabamaRedThe formula assumes a 5% SPED population, at most, for districts and provides additional funding to districts only for high-cost SPED services
ArkansasRedThe formula does not fund special education through separate weights, but instead assumes certain personnel needs and factors those needs into the per-student base. In addition, districts can seek reimbursements for services for students with extremely high-cost needs, but money for reimbursements is limited and subject to the policymakers providing such funding in the state budget.
GeorgiaGreenThe formula includes multiple SPED weights based on 5 specific disability categories
KentuckyGreenThe formula includes SPED weights for 3 different categories of needs: low/severe (135%), moderate (17%), and high (24%) incidence
LouisianaYellowThe formula includes a single SPED weight and does not differentiate between disability (the weight is 150% of the per-student base)
MississippiRedThe state funds SPED by estimating the costs of special education staff positions based on district personnel reports from the prior year
North CarolinaRedThe formula includes a flat funding amount and does not differentiate between disability, and it caps how many students are counted as needing SPED services
South CarolinaGreenThe formula includes multiple SPED weights based on 10 different disability categories
TennesseeGreenThe formula funds students across ten different categories of disability or student need
VirginiaRedThe state funds SPED by estimating the costs of special education staff positions (teachers and aides), divorced from the actual needs students have
Sparsity/Isolation
StateRatingReasoning
AlabamaRedThe formula does not include a sparsity weight
ArkansasGreenThe formula allocates additional funding for sparsity or isolation in three different ways, with more additional dollars going the districts that are the most isolated
GeorgiaYellowThe state provides additional funding for some small school districts through a grant program, instead of providing a per-student weight
KentuckyRedThe formula does not include a sparsity weight
LouisianaYellowThe sparsity weight is not generous (the weight ranges from 1.0 to 1.2 depending on enrollment)
MississippiYellowThe state provides increased funding for sparse school districts through the state's transporation funding system instead of being provided as a per-student weight; also funding is provided based on historical, rather than current sparsity levels, not reflecting current costs
North CarolinaYellowThe formula provides increased funding for small school districts based on teacher salaries and a tiered allocation for eligible districts, instead of providing a per-student weight
South CarolinaRedThe formula does not include a sparsity weight
TennesseeYellowThe formula does not provide generous weights for small and sparse districts (5%)
VirginiaRedThe formula does not include a sparsity weight
Concentrated Poverty
StateRatingReasoning
AlabamaRedThe formula does not include a weight for concentrated poverty
ArkansasYellowThe formula includes funding for concentrated poverty ranging from 7.5% to 23% of the per-student base depending on district poverty level
GeorgiaRedThe formula does not include a weight for concentrated poverty
KentuckyRedThe formula does not include a weight for concentrated poverty
LouisianaRedThe formula does not include a weight for concentrated poverty
MississippiRedThe formula does not include a weight for concentrated poverty
North CarolinaYellowThe formula includes a weight for concentrated poverty and specifically supports districts w/ lower than average ability to raise local revenues
South CarolinaRedThe formula does not include a weight for concentrated poverty
TennesseeYellowThe formula has a 5% concentrated poverty weight, failing to differentiate between different levels of district poverty
VirginiaYellowThe formula has a concentrated poverty weight ranging from 1% to 26% more of the per-student base depending on district poverty level
Sources: EdBuild

Use of ESAs or Vouchers

StateRatingReasoning
AlabamaRedThe state has various scholarship tax credits and an education savings account program that is available to all families regardless of income
ArkansasRedThe state has an education savings account program that will become available to all K-12 students by 2025 after 2 years of targeted phasing in; the state also has scholarship tax credits
GeorgiaYellowThe state has a voucher program for students with disabilities and an education savings account program for students living in the attendance zone of a struggling school (i.e. a school that has been rated a D or F by the state)
KentuckyGreenThe state does not have any private school choice programs
LouisianaRedThe state has voucher and scholarship tax credit programs; the state also has an education savings account program that will eventually become available to all families regardless of income
MississippiYellowThe state has both a voucher program and an education savings account program for students with disabilities
North CarolinaRedThe state has a voucher program that is available to all families regardless of income
South CarolinaRedThe state has scholarship tax credit programs and an education savings account program that will become available to all families regardless of income by the 2027-28 school year
TennesseeYellowThe state has a pilot ESA program available to low- and middle-income families in specific regions of the state
VirginiaYellowThe state has a scholarship tax credit program for both students living in poverty and students with disabilities
Sources: EdBuild

ESSA Equity Reporting Transparency

StateRatingReasoning
AlabamaRedThe state reports are not aligned with equity-oriented school spending reporting principles
ArkansasGreenThe state reports are aligned with equity-oriented school spending reporting principles
GeorgiaYellowThe state reports are partially aligned with equity-oriented school spending reporting principles
KentuckyYellowThe state reports are partially aligned with equity-oriented school spending reporting principles
LouisianaYellowThe state reports are partially aligned with equity-oriented school spending reporting principles
MississippiYellowThe state reports are partially aligned with equity-oriented school spending reporting principles
North CarolinaRedThe state reports are not aligned with equity-oriented school spending reporting principles
South CarolinaYellowThe state reports are partially aligned with equity-oriented school spending reporting principles
TennesseeYellowThe state reports are partially aligned with equity-oriented school spending reporting principles
VirginiaYellowThe state reports are partially aligned with equity-oriented school spending reporting principles
Sources: EdBuild

Funding Adequacy

StateRatingReasoning
AlabamaRedThere is high percentage of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
ArkansasRedThere is high percentage of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
GeorgiaRedThere is high percentage of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
KentuckyYellowThere is a moderate percentage of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
LouisianaRedThere is high percentage of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
MississippiYellowThere is a moderate percentage of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
North CarolinaRedThere is high percentage of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
South CarolinaRedThere is high percentage of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
TennesseeRedThere is high percentage of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
VirginiaYellowThere is a moderate percentage of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
Sources: EdBuild

Student-Based Formula

StateRatingReasoning
Alabama
Red
The formula is resource-based
Arkansas
Green
The formula is student-based
Georgia
Yellow
The formula is a hybrid model
Kentucky
Green
The formula is student-based
Louisiana
Yellow
The formula is a hybrid model
Mississippi
Yellow
The formula is a hybrid model
North Carolina
Red
The formula is resource-based
South Carolina
Yellow
The formula is a hybrid model
Tennessee
Green
The formula is student-based
Virginia
Yellow
The formula is a hybrid model
Sources: EdBuild

Local Revenue Cap

StateRatingReasoning
AlabamaYellowThe formula sets a cap on local property tax rates and sets a level above which school districts may not raise property taxes without voter approval
ArkansasYellowThe formula sets a cap on local property tax rates and sets a level at which voters can vote to increase
property taxes
GeorgiaYellowThe formula sets a cap on local property tax rates and sets a level at which voters can vote to increase
property taxes
KentuckyYellowThe formula sets a cap on local property tax rates and allows voters to approve additional tax increases to
raise revenue
LouisianaYellowThe formula sets a cap on local property tax rates and sets a level at which voters can vote to increase
property taxes
MississippiYellowThe formula sets a cap on local property tax rates, but allows higher rates to be set for debt repayments
North CarolinaRedThe formula does not set a limit for how much local revenue districts can raise
South CarolinaRedThe formula does not set a limit for how much local revenue districts can raise
TennesseeRedThe formula does not set a limit for how much local revenue districts can raise
VirginiaRedThe formula does not set a limit for how much local revenue districts can raise
Sources: EdBuild

State Funding Transparency

StateRatingReasoning
AlabamaYellowThe state education department publishes a school funding guide, but it is not user friendly
ArkansasYellowThe state education department publishes a school funding guide, but it is not user friendly
GeorgiaRedThere is no publicly available document from the department of education that explains how the funding formula works or how allocations are determined; there is a broken link to what would be a primer on how the state funds public schools
KentuckyYellowThe state education department publishes an executive summary that provides an overall explanation of the components of the state's formula; the department also publishes several documents that explain district calculations, but they are not user friendly
LouisianaYellowThe state education department publishes several documents about the funding system, including a presentation that summarizes the state's funding system, but it is not easy to locate on the website
MississippiYellowThe state education department publishes several documents about the funding system; the document that summarizes the funding system is not easy to locate on the website
North CarolinaYellowThe state education department publishes a manual that explains its policy for allocating allotments but it is not user friendly
South CarolinaYellowThe state education department publishes a funding manual that explains the overall structure of the formula, but the document is not user friendly
TennesseeGreenThe state education department maintains a webpage that explains the funding formula in clear language and has an accompanying guide that is in plain language and easy to find
VirginiaRedThe state education department does not provide a simple, clear explanation of how the funding formula works
Sources: EdBuild