Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rural schools benefit from stimulus funding, but money doesn't flow where most needed

A story in today's NY Times today compares the Rich School District in Randolph, Utah, population 483, with Uinta County District 1, just north of the Wyoming state line, in Evanston, population 11,507. The former is struggling because of a difficult state budget situation, while the neighboring oil-rich Wyoming district has a new elementary school and an Apple laptop for every student.

Sam Dillon's NYT story is prompted by the federal stimulus spending earmarked for public education. He highlights the situations of several states with significant rural populations. Here's an excerpt reflecting the gist of the story--that outdated funding formulas are being used to distribute the funds.
In pouring rivers of cash into states and school districts, Washington is using a tangle of well-worn federal formulas, some of which benefit states that spend more per pupil, while others help states with large concentrations of poor students or simply channel money based on population. Combined, the formulas seem to take little account of who needs the money most.
Under the funding formulas being used, Utah is getting about $400 less per student than Wyoming. In fact, the principal of the Wyoming district sees the money as not only a windfall, but is quoted as referring to it as a "distraction." The main reason that the funds represent a windfall in some states, including North Dakota, seems to be that these states are currently flush (some with oil and gas money) so that the federal funds become a surplus.

Other states whose schools will will receive large per pupil allocations are South Dakota, Louisiana, New York and Washington, DC. Like states that are currently flush with their own monies, these states that will use the federal monies to close significant funding gaps are favored recipients under funding formulas that give preference to states with concentrations of poor students, as well as those that invest heavily in their schools.

Maps accompanying the article may be viewed here. They show which states are getting the most money and indicate the extent to which the federal monies are helping each state close a funding gap.

No comments: