According to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the national total revenues in 2012 were broken down as follows:
- Local government: 44.8%
- State government: 45.1%
- Federal government: 10.1%
NCES breaks down the revenue sources for every state in the country.
Total revenues include all money that a school district receives over a given year. However, the amount districts receive from local, state, and federal sources varies from state to state and even district to district. NCES breaks down the revenue source by state here. The Census Bureau provides revenues sources at the district level.
How to Use the Data
By analyzing revenue data, you can understand how much money schools and districts receive and how they go about spending those dollars. You should use the revenue data to determine if your district’s state and federal funding is similar to other districts within the state.
How the details were measured
NCES reports the data as the total school district revenues per student. It created that figure by dividing the total school district revenues by the number of students enrolled. The data cannot be broken down by race or poverty.
Limitations of the data
The NCES revenue data was not collected for accounting purposes, and the data excludes information on debt liquidation and private trust transactions. This means that you should not use the data to calculate budget or financial statements. Because of the difficulty of collecting the data, the information is not the most current. The most recent data available from NCES is from 2012. However, the most current data can typically be found from local sources.
One important caution: revenue data does not allow you to figure out how specific revenue dollars were spent. You cannot, for instance, evaluate how Title I money was spent at a particular school or district. To get that type of information, you should contact your district budget office.
Key Questions to Ask
How do states fund education?
Every state has a different way of funding education. Some use only categorical programs (funding specific programs or students), while others use foundation formulas (i.e., general aid). You should be sure to take the time to figure out the basics of the state funding system to understand how your state doles out its education dollars.
Can revenue data be broken down?
District revenues should be examined by source and program, so that you have a solid understanding of the sources of funds. The data should also be looked at on a total and per-pupil basis. To calculate a per-pupil basis, the revenue data should be divided by the total number of students. NCES reports revenues on a total and per-pupil basis.
How does my district’s sources of revenue compare to other districts?
You can compare your district’s revenue sources to that of surrounding districts, similar districts, and the average district within your state to determine if you are being provided similar funds from state and federal sources. You can then use that information to advocate for the dollars needed to provide the highest education for your students.
Across the nation, local revenue sources provide about 40 percent of all education dollars. This ranges from a low of 5 percent in Vermont to a high of 58 percent in Illinios. While cities and counties typically raise these funds through property taxes, they also rely on other measures, like school fees and sales tax. Local school districts will usually distribute these funds to schools on a weighted per-pupil basis. The Census web site shows the distribution of local revenue sources for every state and district in the country.
States typically provide about 50 percent of local education funds. Each state has its own system for distributing these funds to school districts, and the formulas can be very complex. In Washington State, for instance, everything from school enrollment to staff experience level is used to figure out how much money each school district receives each year. Oregon’s School Finance 101 offers brief online tutorials to help district leaders get a better handle on how the state distributes its education money.
The federal government is usually the source of about 10 percent of local education dollars. The most well-known source of federal education dollars is Title I of the No Child Left Behind/Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is slated for schools and districts with high percentages of poor children. The U.S. Department of Education’s Title I document offers more information on Title I funding. However, other major sources of federal education dollars include the Child Nutrition Act, which helps pay for school lunch programs, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which assists children with disabilities—both of which actually provide a greater amount of revenue than Title I.
If you want to gain access to raw, state-level revenue information, you can download the information from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Web site. If you want raw, district-level data, you can download the information as an Excel spreadsheet from the U.S. Census document public elementary-secondary education finance data.
Note, however, that Census and NCES data may differ from information released by states and districts because of reporting differences. You should also know that the Census database has some definition issues. For instance, Vermont reports spotty district-level expenditure data because the state does not consider its supervisory unions to be districts. For their part, Hawaii and the District of Columbia also consider their school systems to be a single, unified district.
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