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Do Poor Kids Get Their Fair Share of School Funding?

In this May 2017 report, the Urban Institute presents new data on the progressivity of school district funding, focusing on the degree to which the average low-income student attends districts that are better funded than districts the average nonpoor student attends. The report finds that many states that have progressive funding formulas on paper do not achieve this goal in practice, and that, in some states, the potential progressivity of school funding is constrained by patterns of student sorting (segregation) by income.

Additionally, the Urban Institute's report proposes a new measure of school funding progressivity that estimates average spending on all poor kids (those from families below the federal poverty level) relative to nonpoor kids. Specifically, for each state, a weighted average of each district’s per-student funding is calculated, where the weights are the number of poor kids in each district. Then, the same figure is calculated weighted by the number of nonpoor kids. The progressivity measure for each state is the difference between the average funding for poor and nonpoor kids.


Chingos, M. M. & Blagg, K. (2017). Do Poor Kids Get Their Fair Share of School Funding?. Washington, DC: Urban Institute. Retrieved from