CFED Assets & Opportunity Scorecard
Access to Quality K-12 Education
Despite decades of education reforms, inequity persists in education spending and the availability of qualified teachers. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds frequently begin schooling behind their peers. Experts contend that, as a result, these students need more funding to reach the educational standards of their peers. However, schools with the highest concentration of students in poverty often receive less funding than schools with lower concentrations. States should target funding to these high-poverty districts while creating and enforcing equity standards in all districts.
States also have enormous authority to regulate the teaching profession and can set requirements to help improve the quality of the teaching workforce across the state. States should implement policies to ensure that teachers are adequately prepared and licensed. States should also ensure that there are strong systems in place for teacher evaluation and retention.
CFED evaluated the strength of each state’s policies that support access to quality K-12 education against the four criteria described in the Elements of a Strong Policy tab. The table below shows which criteria each state met.
CFED uses the following icons to denote the strength of state policies:
Strength of State Policies: Access to Quality K-12 Education*
|Does the state have strong systems for teacher evaluation and retention? (must meet 2 of 3 to receive credit)|
|State||Is per-pupil education spending greater than U.S. average of $10,591? 1||Do high-poverty districts receive more funding than low-poverty districts? 2, 3, 4||Has state closed licensure loopholes? 5||Require annual evaluations of all teachers? 5||Require evidence of student learning in teacher evaluation system? 5||Include evaluation results as part of workforce reduction decisions? 5||Rating|
|Alabama||No ($10,320)||No (-16%)||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Alaska||Yes ($16,174)||Yes (36%)||No||No||No||No|
|Arizona||No ($8,655)||No (-9%)||No||Yes||Yes||No 6|
|Arkansas||Yes ($10,757)||No (-1%)||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|California||No ($8,667)||No (0%)||No||No||No||No|
|Colorado||No ($9,155)||Yes (16%)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Connecticut||Yes ($13,959)||No (-10%)||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Delaware||Yes ($11,905)||No (-2%)||No||No||Yes||No|
|District of Columbia||Yes ($16,034)||— 7||Yes||No 8||No 8||No 8|
|Florida||No ($9,576)||Yes (1%)||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Georgia||No ($9,827)||No (-5%)||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Hawaii||Yes ($13,090)||— 7||No||No||No||No|
|Idaho||No ($8,840)||No (-7%)||No||Yes||Yes||No 6|
|Illinois||Yes ($11,229)||No (-23%)||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Indiana||No ($10,419)||Yes (6%)||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Iowa||Yes ($12,007)||No (-2%)||No||No||No||No|
|Kansas||Yes ($12,056)||Yes (1%)||No||No||No||No|
|Kentucky||No ($10,231)||No (0%)||Yes||No||No||No|
|Louisiana||Yes ($12,253)||No (-14%)||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Maine||Yes ($14,591)||No (-7%)||No||No||No||No|
|Maryland||Yes ($12,703)||No (-6%)||No||No||Yes||No|
|Massachusetts||Yes ($13,361)||Yes (9%)||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Michigan||Yes ($10,624)||No (-12%)||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Minnesota||Yes ($11,472)||Yes (11%)||No||No||No||No|
|Mississippi||No ($9,708)||No (-7%)||Yes||No||No||No|
|Missouri||Yes ($10,935)||No (-13%)||No||No||No||Yes|
|Montana||Yes ($13,773)||Yes (12%)||No||No||No||No|
|Nebraska||Yes ($12,823)||No (-1%)||No||No||No||No|
|Nevada||No ($8,363)||— 9||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|New Hampshire||Yes ($13,519)||No (-13%)||No||No||No||No|
|New Jersey||Yes ($15,116)||Yes (13%)||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|New Mexico||Yes ($11,001)||Yes (8%)||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|New York||Yes ($15,863)||No (-23%)||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|North Carolina||No ($9,024)||No (-6%)||No||No||No||No|
|North Dakota||Yes ($12,225)||Yes (10%)||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Ohio||Yes ($11,382)||No (-6%)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oklahoma||No ($9,369)||No (-2%)||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oregon||No ($10,517)||Yes (2%)||No||No||No||No|
|Pennsylvania||Yes ($12,906)||No (-30%)||No||Yes||No||No|
|Rhode Island||Yes ($14,567)||No (-7%)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|South Carolina||No ($10,237)||No (-3%)||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|South Dakota||Yes ($11,232)||Yes (11%)||No||No||No||No|
|Tennessee||No ($8,695)||No (-6%)||No||Yes||Yes||No 6|
|Texas||No ($8,654)||No (-9%)||No||No||Yes||No|
|Utah||No ($7,217)||Yes (12%)||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Vermont||Yes ($17,847)||No (-2%)||No||No||No||No|
|Virginia||No ($10,095)||No (-26%)||Yes||No||No||No|
|Washington||No ($9,329)||No (-4%)||No||Yes||No||No|
|West Virginia||Yes ($12,780)||No (-8%)||Yes||No||No||No|
|Wisconsin||Yes ($11,783)||No (-4%)||No||No||No||No|
|Wyoming||Yes ($18,068)||Yes (3%)||No||Yes||Yes||No|
* Updated data for 2012 is not publicly available as of October 2012. This table references the most recent data available.
1. Frank Johnson, Lei Zhou and Nanae Nakamoto, Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2008-09, (National Center for Education Statistics, June 2011), Table 3, nces.ed.gov/pubs2011/2011329.pdf. The National Center for Education Statistics Comparable Wage Index (CWI) was used to adjust the per-pupil spending for each state. The CWI is a measure of regional variation in the salaries of college graduates, and it is used to adjust financial data to make comparisons across various regions. To obtain the CWI-adjusted figure, state per-pupil spending was divided by the state CWI, and then multiplied by the national average CWI. The difference between the adjusted per-pupil spending and the national average per-pupil spending was reported to illustrate whether each state was meeting the national average.
2. A positive percentage indicates that the highest-poverty districts spent more money per pupil than the lowest-poverty districts. A negative percentage indicates that the highest-poverty districts spent less money per pupil than the lowest-poverty districts.
3. This measure includes both state and local funds, and does not account for regional cost of living differences. Local funding decisions can create significant variation in total funding across high- and low-poverty districts, and in some districts local spending may greatly exceed state spending. For a more robust discussion of education equity funding measures, see Baker, B.D., Sciarra, D. G., & Farrie, D., Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card, (Newark, NJ: Education Law Center, 2010).
4. United States Education Dashboard, s.v. "Percent difference in current expenditures minus federal revenues (other than Impact Aid) per pupil between high- and low-poverty districts," (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, SY 2007-2008), www.dashboard.ed.gov/statecomparison.aspx?i=ac. Based on an assumption that additional per-pupil spending is appropriate to meet the additional needs of students in poverty, this indicator weights the number of poor students, defaulting to a factor of 40%, based on research from education finance experts.
5. Data provided by Sandi Jacobs at the National Council on Teacher Quality, from forthcoming report: "State Teacher Policy Yearbook 2011."
6. In Arizona, Idaho and Tennessee, seniority and tenure status are not the sole factors used to determine layoffs. However, the state does not require that teacher performance be among the considered factors.
7. The District of Columbia and Hawaii have a single school district, so the spending gap cannot be calculated.
8. The District of Columbia does not have state-level policies that address these three criteria. However, DC Public Schools, the only school district in the city, requires teachers to be evaluated five times annually, that a teacher's impact on students' achievement account for 50% of the evaluation score, and that teacher effectiveness be considered when making workforce reduction decisions.
9. Nevada is excluded from the analysis, as the distribution of students in districts does not allow for a quartile or a two-group analysis.
WHAT STATES CAN DO
States have the flexibility – and the challenge – to develop their own standards and processes for funding education in their state. Instead of relying primarily on property taxes as the main source of revenue for education funding, which can disadvantage high-poverty districts, states should defer to statewide sources of revenue.1 States can also target funding to these districts while creating and enforcing equity standards in all districts.2
States also have enormous authority to regulate the teaching profession, and can set requirements to help improve the quality of the teaching workforce across the state. States can adopt policies that ensure that teachers are adequately prepared and licensed. They can create systems that ensure teachers are evaluated regularly and that student achievement data is included as a measure of progress in evaluations. States can also allow schools to consider factors other than tenure, such as teacher effectiveness, when making workforce reduction decisions.
WHAT STATES HAVE DONE
Overall, 31 states have met or exceeded the national average in per-pupil spending and 15 states provide more funding to high-poverty districts than low-poverty districts. Eighteen states have closed licensure loopholes and 19 states have taken significant steps to establish a fair and thorough evaluation system.
1 Ross Wiener and Eli Pristoop, “How States Shortchange the Districts That Need the Most Help,” The Funding Gap 2006, (Washington, DC: The Education Trust, 2006).
ELEMENTS OF A STRONG POLICY
1. Does per-pupil state education spending meet or exceed the national average?2 While even the best-funded states may not have enough resources to completely meet their K-12 education needs, some states are leading the rest by investing more in each student.
2. Does the allocation of state education funds meet the needs of poor students? According to research on school finance, students in poverty need more funding than non-poor students to reach the same educational standards. States should adopt funding formulas and allocation mechanisms that provide additional funding to high-poverty districts.
3. Do states ensure that teachers are qualified? In some states, loopholes allow teachers who cannot pass state licensing tests or other certification standards to continue teaching indefinitely. In general, these un- or under-qualified teachers end up in schools in poorer districts. States should close these loopholes entirely. In exceptional circumstances that necessitate allowing limited numbers of teachers additional time to be certified or licensed, states should allow teachers a maximum of one year to meet all licensure requirements.
4. Does the state have strong systems for teacher evaluation and retention? A fair and robust evaluation system helps schools identify teachers’ strengths and weaknesses, reward high-performing teachers, and guide resources to where they are most needed. States should require that teachers be evaluated annually; that evidence of student learning be one component of the teacher evaluation system; and that evaluation results or other measures of effectiveness be included in workforce reduction decisions.
To see how each state’s policy stacks up against these criteria, see the State Data tab above.
MAKING THE CASE
Four Guidelines for a Successful Campaign
1. Build a broad coalition. Education reform requires the support of a broad coalition of participants. Elected officials will respond when the community as a whole calls for change, not just small groups with a vested interest in education. As with all policy campaigns, there is strength in numbers. Seek out other advocates and coalitions likely to know about and support funding reform. Think creatively about potential partners to approach; while it is important to secure the support of the individuals already engaged in similar work, you should also consider reaching out to less traditional allies in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
In addition, reformers need to be aware that teachers’ unions can wield significant clout in any debate about teacher policies, both in local bargaining and state policy decisions. Giving teachers and the organizations that represent them an opportunity to discuss strategies is important, and the national unions express the need to reform “with us, not to us.” Efforts to work cooperatively are not always successful, thus advocates must decide whether it may sometimes be necessary to forge ahead without union support.
2. Combine funding reform with education reform. New investments in education tend to be most feasible from a political standpoint and most effective from a policy standpoint when they are accompanied by other reforms. Policymakers are generally unwilling to simply spend more money on the same education system. They can be convinced, however, to spend more on a better system. For instance, in 2009, voters in Denver agreed to an increase in the school budget to fund an innovative system of teacher pay, developed in consultation with the local teachers’ union, which provides additional salary for student learning results and teaching in high-poverty schools. Be sure to support reforms that have been researched and proven to help student achievement. Such programs will give the reform movement credibility and provide the greatest possible improvement in education.
3. Develop a sound message. Polling, focus group research and interviews can help lay the research ground work for communication messages. Armed with information, reformers can target their message at the stakeholders in education reform. An informed message is most effective and best utilizes limited resources. Additionally, it is important to craft a message that resonates with everyday people. Campaigns that focus on esoteric and detailed policy topics are difficult for people to relate to. Instead, it is better to focus on tangible effects that clearly illustrate how the proposed changes will affect the general public.
4. Articulate the economic development impact. The “education premium” in the job market has grown steadily over time, with college-educated workers earning much more relative to those without a high school degree than in years past. This premium increases the need to provide all students with a high-quality elementary and secondary education, so they have the opportunity to go to college. As competition in labor markets becomes more global, the types of jobs subject to overseas competition are climbing the education and skills ladder, raising the stakes for educational success.
In addition, low-quality education and unfair school funding systems can hinder economic development. Businesses often cite the lack of a high-quality workforce as a major reason not to locate in certain states and regions. But in property-tax dependent school funding systems, localities are caught in a complicated position: they need good schools to attract more property wealth, but they need property wealth to build good schools.
For each edition of the Assets & Opportunity Scorecard since 2007, CFED has worked with experts in the field to capture detailed stories of noteworthy state policy changes—both policy victories and instructive defeats. These case studies appear in the Resource Guides for each policy priority.
A Public-Private Collaborative Pushes Comprehensive Education Reform in Tennessee (published October 2011)
In 2009, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist led efforts to create the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) to bring together key education stakeholders to create a bold plan for improving education in Tennessee…In January 2010, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the First to the Top Act, the largest piece of education legislation in Tennessee since 1992. This legislation received tremendous bipartisan support, including from the statewide teachers association. Click here to read more.
Elements of Successful Education Reform Campaign in Connecticut (updated October 2011)
In January 2009, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) launched its 2009 state legislative campaign, Mind the Gaps. The campaign successfully advocated for three sensible school reforms: funding to grow high-performing public charter schools, teacher quality and data transparency. Campaign strategies were developed in response to a central insight: for short-term campaigns, it is more effective to mobilize a constituency that already had a clear self-interest in education reform, rather than organize a community that does not yet realize how reform is in their interest. Click here to read more.
Pushing Education Finance Reform in Illinois (published September 2007)
Over the last 25 years, education advocates have tried to reform the Illinois education financing system via the legislature and state judicial system. In 1985, the legislature established new funding levels and required schools to create school improvement plans. When the 1985 reforms failed to improve education, advocates filed lawsuits against the state to demand better funding. From 1990 through 1996, and again in 1999, advocates asked the state courts to mandate finance reforms. The finance lawsuits failed in 1999, and advocates returned to the state legislature as the last and only hope for improving the quality of Illinois schools. Click here to read more.
Related Policy: Early Childhood Education
Although early childhood education is not a Policy Priority in the current Scorecard, it was in prior years and relates to access to quality K-12 education. In 2007 and 2009, CFED published case studies on early childhood education.
Progress in North Carolina (published September 2009)
With significant legislative and gubernatorial support for early childhood education and the institutionalization of community support through local boards, there has historically not been a need to organize a statewide advocacy coalition around early childhood education in North Carolina. However, the recent economic downturn, combined with the transition to a new governor, made it clear the early childhood system would not be immune from budget cuts. Click here to read more.
Oregon’s Ready For School Campaign (published September 2007)
The long-term goal of the Ready for School campaign is for all Oregon children to arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed. Working with the Children’s Institute, an Oregon nonprofit that moves research to action, Ready for School focused on getting the state legislature to fully fund Oregon Head Start Prekindergarten (OPK) as its first action step. OPK, a comprehensive high quality pre-kindergarten program for three- and four-year-olds living in poverty, was producing excellent results, but only reaching 60% of the eligible children. Click here to read more.
For a two-page overview of access to quality K-12 education, download CFED’s Policy Brief.
For an in-depth compendium of analysis, research, and resources on access to quality K-12 education, download CFED’s Resource Guide.