State Funding

The states provide most of the funding that keeps public el-hi schools running in the U.S. For the academic year 1998–99, state sources accounted for 48.7 percent of total school revenues. The states raise this money through a variety of means including various taxes. Some states raise money for education through state-sponsored lottery games. Doing so is somewhat controversial because, while the schools may benefit from the added revenue, some see the lottery as nothing more than state-sponsored gambling, a potentially addictive activity that particularly affects poorer individuals.

Each state has an Education Department that oversees state programs (such as state university systems) as well as individual school districts. In some states a governing body, such as the Board of Regents in New York, plays a significant role. The New York Board of Regents provides a series of examinations for students to establish proficiency in various subjects based on established state standards. Many students in New York receive a Regents diploma as well as their regular school diploma when they graduate high school.

State funding for education can cause huge disagreements among communities with the state. The question state governments face constantly is how to distribute the revenues evenly to ensure that each school district gets its fair share. New York and Pennsylvania offer two examples of how state funds can be fought over. New York City holds nearly half the population of the state, yet it receives proportionally less per student from the state government than other districts in New York. Residents of upstate New York have little desire to see their state tax dollars sent to New York City schools, which they see as too bureaucratic and wasteful. Residents of central Pennsylvania feel the same about education expenditures in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Urban and rural areas have separate needs and challenges. A large city may have an established infrastructure that allows its school officials to approach private companies for assistance. A local computer company may donate computer equipment to the city schools, for example. Yet city schools are often decrepit (many school buildings in New York City are heated by coal furnaces), classes are crowded, and teacher turnover is high. In rural areas, classes are unlikely to be overcrowded, and teachers may stay longer in one place. But having fewer students can also mean having access to fewer resources, and there may not be enough students in a given district to justify the expense of, for example, a special education program for developmentally disabled children.

Inside State Funding