Schools get funding from a lot of different directions, including both the federal and state governments along with donations from the community and fundraisers managed by parents, teachers, and school district administrators. Anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to get involved in a school may be surprised to discover exactly how much money it takes to educate and support a single child, much less large groups of them. While donations and fundraisers vary from school to school, government money usually follows the same pattern, responding to student numbers and local property taxes. Because so many costs for a school are multiplied by the number of students they serve, the government allots much of its funding on a per-student basis limited by actual attendance, hence the importance of role-call.
How is Funding Provided Per-Student?
While each student is valuable, not every student brings the same amount of funding to their school. The federal government recognizes that some children require more attention and resources than others and try to provide for that. This encourages schools to take on ‘difficult’ students and put in the extra effort needed to help them keep up with their classmates. The funding comes from budgets for specific education programs that were put in place to help groups of children identified as needing extra support. These programs include:
- Title I / No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
- National School Lunch Program
Students from Low-Income Families
There are a lot of ways in which students can need extra help and schools have to be ready to step up. The largest group of children for whom the government provides greater per-student funding are those in financially difficult situations. In the worst cases, teachers find themselves trying to supply severely neglected children with cans of food and extra clothing because their families are either absentee or unable to provide for them. Even in less extreme situations, children from low-income families often can’t pay for lunch or new school supplies.
In order to keep these students from falling behind their better-funded peers, schools go out of their way to provide the backpacks, notebooks, pencils, and textbooks that would normally be purchased by parents each year and often provide after-school tutoring to take the place of missing parents or caretakers who might do the same. The federal government does its best to compensate schools who go the extra mile with these at-risk kids.
Many families who are able to cover the school supplies costs still suffer from low monthly incomes and are unable to pay school lunch prices. The National School Lunch Program allows schools to soak the costs of providing free and reduced-cost breakfasts lunches to these children, ensuring that they are energized for school with full bellies of nutritionally balanced food.
Students Who Speak English as a Second Language
Many students from bilingual and early-generation families come to school with an incomplete grasp of the English language. This means that they cannot learn equally in a single-language classroom, requiring schools to catch them up in English while also maintaining their grade-level knowledge of subject matter. The school’s goal is always to have these children happily integrated into normal classrooms with a complete understanding of the lessons and the ability to make good grades independent of their linguistic background. However, this takes extra ESL teachers, programs, and materials. Because the amount of additional staff and resources is multiplied by the number of ESL students, schools receive additional per-student funding for each bilingual child they serve.
Students with Disabilities
Most parents would agree that it’s better to send a disabled child to school to learn, socialize, and gain important life experiences than to keep them cooped up at home. There is a wide variety of disabilities that allow children to attend school and their parents prefer to send them. However, this puts the onus on schools to provide special education programs that support these children and allow them to be a part of regular classes.
The easiest of these accommodations are wheelchair ramps and elevators, and even these methods are costly. Some children have motor problems or are especially weak and need to be assisted for everything from carrying books to visiting the bathroom. Others have behavioral disorders or learning disabilities requiring trained tutors who can help them through lessons and schoolwork. In order to fulfill their mandate of fair education to all students, schools soak the costs of accessibility features and special education teachers. Fortunately, the Special Education Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, have come together to offer schools per-child funding based on the number of special need children the school provides for.
All children require a certain amount of care and resources provided by their schools in the form desks, printed assignments, textbooks, instruments, science class equipment, etc. Because the federal government wants schools to provide an equal education to all US students, the funding they pay to each school is determined by the number of students in regular attendance. In order to make sure children with additional challenges to learning get the same amount of education, greater funding is provided for each student that fits into an ‘at-risk’ profile such as poverty, learning English, and dealing with a disability. This helps schools put together much-needed programs, resources, and support systems to help these children get the same quality of education as children with normal ability, fluent English, and higher-income families.’
For more information about how the education system works in the US or why small schools do just as well or better than larger public schools, contact us today.