The purpose of this product is to demonstrate within-state variation in cost-adjusted, district-level per-pupil revenues and to explore inequality in resources related to district poverty-levels.
School district-level, 2013 finance data from the Census f33 data
County-level cost-of-living index data from the Council for Community and Economic Research
School district-level student poverty estimates from the Census, Small Area Income & Poverty Estimates (SAIPE).
School district-level median household income from the Census, American Community Survey and
School district-level, enrollment characteristics [number enrolled, FRL, IEP, LEP] from NCES, Elementary/Secondary Information System (ELSi)
Data exclusion criteria:
District-level school finance data was used as the basis of the district-level data set; other data sources were merged onto this dataset with unmatched entries from the additional data sets being dropped such that every row in the data has school finance data.
Starting with the full sample of 14,462 school districts in the school finance data set, the following exclusions were made:
1. Finance data missing an NCESID
2. Charter districts or districts where charter classification is missing [most of the districts with missing data seem to be ones we would want to exclude anyway, e.g. “computer association” districts, “interlocal cooperatives” etc.]
3. Special education, technical and vocational districts [excluded by finding districts that some form of special, technical or vocational in their name, with exceptions made for districts that appear to be more general districts]
4. Districts with ten or fewer students
5. Districts that enroll a proportion of IEP students that is more than two standard deviations (sd=.05) above the mean of 0.14
6. Districts missing cost-adjusting values
7. Districts with state+local revenues below $500
In total, 1,542 districts (11%) were excluded leaving 12,920 districts in the Power In Numbers sample
For the regressiveness analyses, two additional exclusions were applied to the sample: 1) DC and Hawaii were removed, since they each have only one school district, and 2) school districts with less than one student per 10 square miles, on average, were excluded because of cost-considerations that differentially impact sparse districts.
All of the revenue figures presented are cost-adjusted to convert per-pupil revenues into figures that account for variation in the purchasing power of a dollar across different regions. See our first Power in Numbers piece for a discussion of why cost-adjusting is so important in studies of school finance.
We applied a cost-adjusting conversion from the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) to each district's revenues. District revenues were adjusted using the C2ER county-level, cost-adjusting rate for the county identified by NCES as being associated with a district.
For each state, the average district-level, per-pupil revenues from state and local funds were computed separately for high- and low-poverty districts. High-poverty districts are defined as those districts that fall into the top quartile in terms of student poverty in their state. Low-poverty districts are defined as those that fall into the bottom quartile in terms of student poverty in their state.
The degree of regressiveness in a state is calculated as:
(avg. per-pupil revenues in low-poverty districts) - (avg. per-pupil revenues in high-poverty districts)
(avg. per-pupil revenues in low-poverty districts)
This measure describes the average per-pupil revenues high-poverty districts receive as a percentage of the average per-pupil revenues in low-poverty districts. Negative numbers indicate that low-poverty districts receive more funding than high-poverty districts; positive numbers indicate that high-poverty districts receive more funding than low-poverty districts.
States in which high-poverty districts receive 10% or more revenue per-pupil above what low-poverty districts receive are considered progressive. States in which high-poverty districts receive between 0 and 10% more revenue per-pupil than low-poverty districts are considered relative neutral. States in which high-poverty districts receive less revenue than low-poverty districts are considered regressive.
For the nation as a whole, the average district-level, per-pupil revenues from state and local funds were computed separately for high- and low-poverty districts. High- and low-poverty districts are defined in two ways: 1) those that fall into the top and bottom quartile, respectively, in terms of student poverty in their respective state, and 2) those that fall into the top and bottom quartile, respectively, in terms of student poverty nationally.
The degree of regressiveness was calculated for both of the above national-level poverty definitions, separately, using the same equation and interpretation as was use for the state-level analysis.
Difference between district and state-average per-pupil revenues
In order to explore variation in per-pupil revenues within states, we compare each district’s cost-adjusted revenues to the average cost-adjusted per-pupil revenues in the state. Each district’s percent difference from the state-average revenues is computed by taking the difference between district and state-average revenues, divided by the state-average revenue for each district in the state.