Schools face many challenges that are directly related to student achievement.
Let's face it; a school with adequate resources means bigger classrooms, more qualified and well-paid teachers, modern instructional materials, etc., translating to higher student achievement and vice versa.
The good news is everyone is starting to take notice of these issues. The bad news is the pressure for schools to make the best of their limited budgets continues to grow. As a result, schools have been forced to look for alternative sources of funding, which has not been without challenges.
In this article, we ask ourselves: what are some challenges to getting funding for schools? Read on as we discuss this vital issue.
Inadequate State Support
Perhaps the most obvious challenge to getting school funding is the lack of enough state support. It is an open secret that most states have provided far less money for public schools than before the Great Recession. Up to 10 states have reduced funding for elementary and secondary schools by over 7% per student over the last 10 years.
These states include Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, and North Carolina.
Predictably, the results have been devastating.
Teachers cannot make ends meet (with barely enough remuneration), and schools, especially those serving low-income students, have had to make-do with deteriorating structures, low-quality curriculum, old instructional materials, and more jam-packed classrooms.
Statistics from the Congressional Research Service indicate that education budgets relying on state revenues to fund K-12 schools are at risk. This challenge is likely to persist into the foreseeable future.
Federal Funding Challenges
It is a similar narrative with federal funding. "Title I," the biggest federal education funding program, has not reached its pre-2008 level. It is down by 5%, all thanks to the rising inflation levels. This has translated to a significant reduction in school budgets.
Additionally, K-12 public schools are underfunded by roughly $150billion annually, leaving over 30 million school-going children without adequate resources they need to compete fairly with their counterparts from well-funded schools.
As a result, there has been a massive reduction in school staff in K-12 public schools (teachers, librarians, nurses) even as the number of enrolled students rises, directly affecting the quality of education offered in these schools.
Reliance on Property Taxes
School districts rely heavily on property taxes to fund schools. And therein lies a big challenge. There is a huge gap in property taxes between poor and wealthy communities, which creates a funding gap from the very beginning.
For starters, properties in wealthy neighborhoods have a much higher value than those in poor neighborhoods. As a result, tax revenue will be higher even if they have the same tax rate as low-income neighborhoods.
Another issue is the middle class' tendency to move to urban areas, leaving cities with a high concentration of impoverished students. Subsequently, property values nosedived in those areas and increased in the suburban areas, leaving the local governments with more tax revenue to fund a quality education.
Typically, wealthier neighborhoods have fewer schools and massive revenue from property taxes. Low-income neighborhoods have more schools but far lesser property taxes to share amongst themselves. As a result, more affluent neighborhoods end up with the best schools than those from impoverished communities.
The location of a school determines its access to extra sources of funds.
Let's put this into context: in Columbia, South Carolina, 20 private colleges are serving slightly over 13,000 students. In other areas like Laredo, Texas, a population of 260,000 is served by four colleges, although only one community is accessible to most students who mainly come from low-income families.
This is a challenge because, typically, community colleges have no access to extra funds as they lack a robust network of alumni willing to chip in and help their alma mater in their fundraisers and other efforts to raise money. This seriously cripples their effort to get funding.
Granted, this is slowly improving as the economy starts to recover from months of restrictions. However, schools continue to feel the effects of Covid-19. The pandemic created multiple additional expenditures that were not budgeted, thus reducing the amount of funding schools received. It made school districts make some difficult choices regarding budgets and resource allocation.
The pandemic also negatively affected schools' ability to initiate income-generating activities (including fundraisers and/or hiring out school facilities), which plunged them into unforeseen financial difficulties.
Competition for Donor Dollars
With increased budget cuts, the competition for donors has only intensified. Schools are competing for the same pool of donors to help them shore up their budgets. Donors are also receiving hundreds of messages from charities and other nonprofit organizations, which can be attributed to the slight decrease in the number of donations from individual donors.
In relation, parents from low-income neighborhoods have less disposable income and are unlikely to raise similar amounts in fundraisers compared to their peers from wealthier schools.
The Result of These Funding Challenges
The significance of these funding challenges is far-reaching. For example, a staggering 92% of teachers are forced to spend money from their own pockets to buy classroom supplies. On average, teachers spend $450 per year on things that should be provided by schools under normal circumstances without the faintest hope of being refunded.
Schools and districts are also feeling the strain caused by the current teacher shortage. When teachers complain of having to getting students back on track, dealing with mental health challenges, adjusting to new curricula, and surviving on a stagnant salary, it’s no wonder teachers report feeling burnt out. Ultimately, it is the students who suffer the most from a lack of resources.
In many cases, schools don’t have the funding or human resources necessary to continue running afterschool programs, extracurricular activities, and other initiatives.
Schools continue to face plenty of challenges in terms of funding which has negatively affected the student's learning outcomes and achievement levels. At Lean Stream, we are determined to ease this burden on schools by partnering with them in their fundraising endeavors.