Educational Economics: Where Do School Funds Go?

April 2010

Imagine if a school were to spend more per pupil on ceramics electives than core science classes. What if a district were to push more funding to wealthy neighborhoods than to impoverished ones? Such policies would provoke outrage. Yet these schools and districts are real.

Today’s taxpayers spend almost $9,000 per pupil, roughly double what they spent 30 years ago, and educational achievement doesn’t seem to be improving. With the movement toward holding schools and districts accountable for student outcomes, we might think that officials can precisely track how much they are spending per student, per program, per school. But considering the patchwork that is school finance—federal block funding, foundation grants, earmarks, set-asides, and union mandates—funds can easily be diverted from where they are most needed.

Educational Economics: Where Do School Funds Go? examines education finance from the school’s vantage point, explaining how the varied funding streams can prevent schools from delivering academic services that mesh with their stated priorities. As government budgets shrink, linking expenditures to student outcomes will be imperative. Educational Economics offers concrete prescriptions for reform.

The book is available from the Urban Institute Press (ISBN 978-0-87766-764-3, paperback, 128 pages, $26.50)

Related Research: