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Quality Counts School Finance Report Gives Missouri a C- Grade


Quality Counts — the nation’s most comprehensive ongoing assessment of the state of American education — published its 19th annual Education Week’s Quality Counts report.

The report, called Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown was made up of three indexes:

· The Chance for Success Index;
· K-12 Achievement Index; and
· School Finance

School finance is an ongoing battle in Missouri, where the state’s Foundation Formula goes under-funded year after year. That’s why the Quality Counts report caught our attention: We were curious to see how Missouri’s school finance stacks up against the rest of the nation. The School Finance index “examined educational expenditure patterns and the distribution of those funds” (source).

The findings? The U.S. earned a C grade. The highest scoring state in the nation was Wyoming, which earned a B+. The lowest was Idaho, which earned a failing grade. Missouri fell in the middle of the pack: we earned a C-.

You can purchase the full report here, but if you’d like the shorter version, keep reading:

The report looks at how much money each state actually spent on public education, but it also looked at funding-related poverty-based achievement gaps. It’s important to understand that the report didn’t just look at the state’s overall education spending though; it looked at the districts within each state.

The study aims to measure educational progress — in this case educational funding progress — over time and across all states. To do that, the finance report included eight key factors:

1. The relationships between school district funding and local property wealth;

Missouri’s Score: Missouri scored 0.185, which means that wealthy districts in the state receive more funding per weighted pupil that Missouri’s poorer districts do.

Read more: Satire (and the Sad Truth) About Education Funding with The Onion

2. Actual spending as a percent of the amount of money needed to bring all students to a median level of funding;

Missouri’s Score: 91.1%. The best scores in the nation were in the 95th percentile and the lowest was in the 81st. The national average was 90.8%. Our interpretation is that Missouri could do more to close the gap for students in districts where funding falls below the state median.

3. The amount of disparity in spending across school districts within a state;

Missouri’s Score: 0.151. In this case, 0.0 would be a perfect score because it would indicate that there was no disparity in spending from one district to the next. We fell near the middle of all states, but we were below the national average of 0.167

4. The difference in per-pupil spending levels between the highest (95th) and lowest (5th) percentiles;

Missouri’s Score: $3,558. Missouri’s spending difference was lower than the national average ($4,559), but the discrepancy in spending is substantial when you consider that our State Adequacy Target (SAT) for PPE in the same year was just $6,717.17.

Learn more: Missouri’s State Adequacy Target & the Foundation Formula

5. Each state’s per-pupil expenditure (PPE), adjusted for regional cost differences;

Missouri’s Score: $10,798. The national average (adjusted for cost of living, etc.) was $11,735, so Missouri didn’t fall too far behind. Wyoming’s PPE was the highest in the nation at $17,758.

6. The number of students in the state who attend school in a district that has the same PPE as the national average or a higher PPE than the national average;

Missouri’s Score: Just 13.7% of Missouri’s students attend school in districts where PPE meets or exceeds the national average. Nationally, 43.4% of students attend school in a district that meets or exceeds national average per-pupil funding.

7. PPE compared to how far below the national average each district funds its students; and

Missouri’s Score: 85.7. While this measurement (called the “Spending Index”) uses a complicated mathematic formula (see the report), the important takeaways are that 100 is a perfect score, and that the national average was 89.4. Eight states scored a perfect 100, meaning that every single district in their state fund their pupils at or above the national average.

8. The state’s total percent of taxable resources invested in education.

Missouri’s Score: 3.3% of Missouri’s total taxable resources are invested in education, as compared to a 3.4% national average. The highest percentages in the country were in Vermont and West Virginia. Both states spent 5.1% of their taxable resources on education. North Dakota invested just 2.3% of taxable resources to public education.

Learn more: Where Does Missouri’s Public Education Funding Come From?

While the School Finance report shouldn’t be viewed as a standalone piece from the other two indices in Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown, its findings are still intriguing.

· If we hope to reach a Top 10 national public schools ranking by the year 2020, how important is it to close our spending gaps between wealthier and poorer schools?
· What can our education leaders and lawmakers do to help ensure that all students in Missouri get at least median-level funding for public education?
· Is a $3,558 per-student discrepancy acceptable between our best- and worst-funded schools after removing the top and bottom 5%?

Education funding and policy are complex issues nationally and right here in Missouri. Missouri Parent won’t always have the answers to these polarizing questions, but we’ll continue to report on funding and legislative issues that affect your child’s K-12 public education in the state.

Come back to the Missouri Parent Blog throughout the legislative session to learn more about education funding policies being debated right now in Missouri, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.


Download the “National Highlights Report” of Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown here.

Read Education Week’s press release on Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown here.

See the School Finance report here.

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