CFED Scorecard

CFED Assets & Opportunity Scorecard

K-12 Education Funding and Quality

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 these students need more funding to reach the educational standards of their peers. Additionally, inconsistencies in teacher preparation and licensing negatively affect students’ performance.

What States Can Do

States have the flexibility – and the challenge – to develop their own standards and processes for funding education. 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. 

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. 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.

Strength of State Policies: K-12 Education Funding and Quality

Is per-pupil education spending greater than U.S. average of $10,700? 1Does state have strong teacher evaluation & retention systems? (2 of 3 for credit) 2
StateAdequate education spending?Amount of per-pupil education spendingStrong teacher evaluation and retention?Require annual evaluations of all teachers? 3Require evidence of student learning in teacher evaluation system? 3Include evaluation results as part of workforce reduction decisions? 3
Alabama 4 $8,755 Yes No No
Alaska $18,175 No Yes No
Arizona 5 $7,208 Yes Yes No
Arkansas $9,394 No Yes No
California $9,220 No No No
Colorado $8,647 Yes Yes Yes
Connecticut $16,631 Yes Yes No
Delaware $13,833 Yes Yes No
District of Columbia $17,953 No Yes No
Florida $8,433 Yes Yes Yes
Georgia $9,099 Yes Yes Yes
Hawaii $11,823 Yes Yes No
Idaho 5 $6,791 Yes Yes No
Illinois $12,288 No Yes Yes
Indiana $9,566 Yes Yes Yes
Iowa $10,313 No No No
Kansas $9,828 No Yes No
Kentucky $9,316 No Yes No
Louisiana $10,490 Yes Yes Yes
Maine $12,147 No Yes Yes
Maryland $13,829 Yes Yes No
Massachusetts $14,515 No Yes Yes
Michigan $10,948 No Yes Yes
Minnesota $11,089 No Yes No
Mississippi $8,130 Yes Yes No
Missouri $9,597 No Yes Yes
Montana $10,625 No No No
Nebraska $11,579 No No No
Nevada $8,339 Yes Yes Yes
New Hampshire 4 $13,721 No No No
New Jersey 6 $17,572 Yes Yes No
New Mexico $9,012 Yes Yes No
New York $19,818 Yes Yes No
North Carolina $8,390 Yes Yes No
North Dakota $11,980 Yes No No
Ohio 7 $11,197 No Yes Yes
Oklahoma $7,672 Yes Yes Yes
Oregon $9,543 No Yes No
Pennsylvania $13,864 Yes Yes No
Rhode Island $14,415 No Yes Yes
South Carolina $9,514 No Yes No
South Dakota $8,470 No Yes No
Tennessee 5 $8,208 Yes Yes Yes
Texas 4 $8,299 No No Yes
Utah $6,555 Yes Yes Yes
Vermont $16,377 No No No
Virginia 8 $10,960 No Yes Yes
Washington $9,672 Yes Yes Yes
West Virginia $11,132 Yes Yes No
Wisconsin $11,071 Yes Yes No
Wyoming $15,700 Yes Yes No

Notes on the Data

1. The Educational Finance Branch, Public Education Finances: 2013, 2013 Census of Governments, (United States Census Bureau, June 2015), Table 8. Accessed June 10, 2015. 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. States receive credit for adequate education spending if per-pupil spending, adjusted for regional variation, meets or exceeds the national average of $10,700.

2. States receive credit for having a strong teacher evaluation and retention system if 2 of 3 of the following criteria are met: the state requires annual evaluations of all teachers; the state requires evidence of student learning in teacher evaluations and the state includes evaluation results as part of workforce reduction systems.

3. Data provided through e-mail correspondence with the National Council on Teacher Quality in July 2015.

4. Alabama, New Hampshire, and Texas have an ESEA waiver requiring an evaluation system that includes student achievement as a significant factor. However, no specific guidelines or policies have been articulated.

5. In Arizona, Idado 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.

6. In New Jersey, for SY 14-15, tests will count for 10%; for SY 15-16, tests will count for 20%. This appears to connect to test transition rather than the lowering of student growth percentage.

7. In Ohio, when considering performance in which teachers are laid off, tenure is considered first.

8. Contrary to other states, Virignia explicitly defines the student growth it requires to inform evaluations.

How States Are Assessed

States receive credit for adequately funding K-12 education if per-pupil education spending, adjusted for regional variation, is greater than the U.S. average of $10,700. States receive credit for having a strong teacher evaluation and retention system if 2 of 3 of the following criteria are met: the state requires annual evaluations of all teachers; the state requires evidence of student learning in teacher evaluations; and the state includes evaluation results as part of workforce reduction systems. 

What States Have Done

Overall, 23 states and the District of Columbia have exceeded the national average in per-pupil spending. Thirty-three states have taken significant steps to establish a fair and thorough evaluation system.

Making the Case

Since 2007, CFED has provided tips to help advocates build a campaign to advance asset-building policies. Although the specific policies featured in the Scorecard have changed over the years, the strategies discussed in this section are still applicable and can be used to make the case for a number of related policies.

Four Guidelines for a Successful Campaign

  1. Build a broad coalitionEducation 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.

Case Studies

Since 2007, CFED has provided case studies that capture detailed stories of noteworthy state policy changes. Although the specific policies featured in the Scorecardhave changed over the years, these case studies still serve as instructive lessons drawn from both policy victories and defeats.

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.

CFED thanks Sandi Jacobs and Nithya Joseph at the National Center for Teacher Quality for their input and expertise on this policy issue. 

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