While the U.S. is one of the most educated countries in the world, it doesn’t provide the same quality elementary school or secondary school education to all students. In many states, more affluent school districts receive a greater amount of funding per student than poorer districts, with one estimate claiming that low-income districts are underfunded by around $6,700 per pupil.
Discrepancies between the rich and poor have been exacerbated even more due to the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Low-income students have suffered the greatest “learning loss” due to partial or total remote learning. One contributing factor is that people in low-income districts are less likely to have the technological resources they need.
States that provide equitable funding to all school districts can help prevent poor students from having lower graduation rates, lower rates of pursuing higher education and smaller future incomes than their wealthy peers. The difference is dramatic: College graduates have $154 - $1,115 higher median weekly earnings than people with a high school diploma and no college experience, depending on the degree.
To find out where school funding is distributed most fairly, WalletHub first scored the equitability of each school district in each state based on two metrics: average household income and expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools per pupil. Then, we ranked 49 states based on the average equitability of all the school districts in each state.
States with Most & Least Equitable School Districts
|Overall Rank||State||Total Score|
Note: To view the most equitable school districts within a state, click on the state’s name in the above table.
**Due to data limitations, Hawaii was excluded from our analysis.
Red States vs. Blue States
Ask the Experts
In order to provide further insight on how to promote equitability in education, WalletHub turned to a panel of experts. Click on the pictures of the experts below to read their bios and see their responses to the following key questions:
- When evaluating the fairness of school funding among the states, what are the key indicators to consider?
- What measures can be taken to improve the level and distribution of school funding for students in state public school systems?
- What challenges should policymakers keep in mind that are essential to educational equity from Pre-K through grade 12? How can these challenges be addressed?
- What policies and practices centered around equity can be implemented to ensure the needs of every student, especially the most vulnerable, are met during this current crisis?
- Will the fact that President Joe Biden proposed a $20 billion Title I “equity grants” initiative help American schools make progress in closing the educational gap?
Ask the Experts
In order to rank the states with the most and least equitable school districts, WalletHub first scored 12,876 school districts throughout the U.S. based on two metrics: average household income and expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools per pupil.
For expenditures, for each 1 percent above the state's average we removed 1 point from a base score of 50 points for each district. For household income, for each 1 percent above the state's average we added 1 point to a base score of 50 points for each district. The inverse was true for each 1 percent below the state's average.
The final score for each district was calculated by taking the absolute difference between the score for expenditures and the score for household income. We then ranked the districts based on the total score, with the lowest value, representing the most equitable, being ranked 1.
Finally, in order to generate the ranking at the state level, we took the average score of all the school districts from each state and ranked the states in the ascending order of the scores, with rank 1 being attributed to the state with the lowest value, representing the most equitable.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from of the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics.