School district funding “patterns” defy logic, analysis.
This week we have been investigating student funding at SC public schools.
Equally surprising was the fact that a mere 44 cents per dollar of that huge sum reaches the classroom.
Wednesday, we showed that despite the huge statewide average, there are massive spending gaps between districts, often within the same county. This intra-county comparison showed that poor districts received more money (despite Jim Rex’s claim otherwise), but statewide the pattern is less clear.
This left us wondering – how can you explain gaps of $10,000 between districts. Do lawmakers give money to districts based on enrollment? Performance? Student composition? Is there any rhyme or reason at all to the current funding formula(s)?
Trying to make sense of the dollars, and hoping to identify a pattern, we compared spending to 1. district size; 2. district test scores; and 3. percentage of low-income student enrollment.
1. Comparison of district enrollment to per pupil spending
2. Comparison of district SAT scores to per pupil spending
3. Comparison of district poverty ratio to per pupil spending
Does it look like a lot of random dots? It sure does. That’s because there is no discernible correlation between school spending and enrollment, performance or student composition in South Carolina public schools.
Our school funding is completely choatic. Lawmakers must to buckle down and reform the broken system.
Only when the state funds the child, not the monolithic administrative districts, can we begin to address problems like the 158 per day drop out rate and the shameful race-based performance gap. Without a coherent funding formula we are blindly throwing money at problems that are not going away. If wasting money solved problems South Carolina would have emerged from its last-in-the-nation status years ago.