States and districts are required to publicly report school-by-school spending starting with expenditures from the 2018-19 school year. Access to spending data for every public school in every community will be a game changer for those advocating on behalf of students, including parents, community organizations, and concerned citizens. The data may raise thorny questions about which schools get what and why. It may also surface some unexpected (and potentially concerning) patterns, prompting questions about spending trade-offs and changes to ensure schools have equitable access to public education dollars—and that those dollars are used wisely to support improvements in student achievement.

With School-by-School Spending Data You Can:

  • Examine spending patterns and compare spending with outcomes, to see what trends emerge.
  • Talk to school and district leaders about current spending practices and what policies or practices are in place that inhibit or support their ability to leverage dollars to support students.
  • Start conversations at the school and/or district level about spending decisions, equitable distribution of resources, and how spending patterns are or are not related to performance.
  • Inform schooling decisions for your children.
  • Ask to participate in budgeting and spending conversations, consider tradeoffs, and support efforts to leverage spending to improve outcomes.

School Spending Trends in Your Community

While districts receive funding from federal and state governments, local school boards are responsible for how resources are distributed across the schools in their district. Every district spends its dollars differently. Therefore, it is important to understand how dollars are allocated across schools in your community and how each school leverages its resources to support students. Questions you might explore:

Array schools from lowest to highest state/local per-pupil spending. On which school does the district spend the most per pupil (in state/local funds)?  Least per pupil?  Why? (E.g., what is driving the difference?)  Does per-student spending at any school stand out as unexpected? Do higher-needs schools get appropriately higher levels of resources?

Group schools by percent poverty and/or percent minority. Among elementary schools, does the district allocate less/same/or more of its state/local dollars to its schools with more students in poverty? How about for schools with more students of color? Why? How about across middle and high schools? Note that federal funds are intended to be layered on top of an equitable allocation of state/local funds.


Group schools by level. Does the district spend more on elementary, middle, or high schools?  Why?


If the district has any obvious regions or school types, is spending fair across regions?

We do not have an example analysis yet!  Send us yours edunomics@georgetown.edu.

Do teacher salary differences drive any of the patterns identified in spending per student by student type, school type/size or school location?


 What percentage of an average school’s resources is attributed to the school site’s share of central?  Does that seem high?


Does the district spend more or less on smaller schools?  Why?


Compare spending and outcomes data across schools with similar demographics.


Explore spending and outcomes data to uncover innovative or effective spending practices. Compare total expenditures for each school, some expenditure detail by major function or object and/or by major program (Special Education, English Learner programs, etc.), student demographics, and student performance by school and student type.

We do not have any example analyses yet. Send us yours edunomics@georgetown.edu.

Additional Resources for Understanding Spending and Advocating for System Improvements

Here are some resources to help parents and advocates understand education spending, how funding decisions are made, and how to talk with education leaders about spending decisions, trade-offs, and outcomes.

5 Tips to Build Understanding and Trust
The New Focus of Ed Finance: The School
Equipping School Leaders to Spend Wisely
Breaking Down School Budgets
National PTA: Tips for Parents
Data Quality Campaign: Make Better Decisions
The Education Trust: What You Need to Know
Why Teacher Salaries Matter

Have questions? Need research or analysis? Edunomics Lab can provide assistance or recommend expert support and other resources.

Contact Deb Britt at Edunomics@georgetown.edu for more information.

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