Across all 50 states, there are different ways in which states allocate K-12 funding to districts. Education Commission of the States has collected information on general funding model structure, base per pupil, special education, English language learner, at-risk, gifted and talented, and small school funding. In addition to identifying which states include mechanisms for base funding and special populations funding, this resource also provides information on how those mechanisms work. For example, how are states identifying at-risk students and making allocations to support them?
To classify funding mechanisms that appear in state statute or in regulations, Education Commission of the States created definitions for the terms used. Those definitions are found at the bottom of this page.
Click on a metric below for 50-State Comparisons showing how all states approach K-12 funding. View a specific state’s approach by going to the state profiles page.
Click on the items below to see data for all states.
- Funding mechanism.
- Base amount.
- Special education funding.
- English language learner funding.
- At-risk funding for low-income students.
- Gifted and talented funding.
- Small size or isolated funding adjustment.
Click here to see all data points for all states.
This is the minimum guaranteed dollar amount that each district receives per student, if available in statute. The dollar figures are the most recent year available in statute, as of July 2019.
Under a block grant model, the state requires districts to apply for funding, and districts must make a case for why they should receive additional funding. Block grants can either use zero-base budgeting and start from scratch each year, or the grants can be calculated based on past years’ spending on services.
Under categorical funding, the state distributes money to districts or schools based on certain conditions. For example, a state may provide a funding supplement for a small or isolated school district, based on that designation alone.
Census Based System
Under a census based system, the state assumes that each district has the same percentage of a student population, regardless of the actual demographics of the district. For example, a state could assume that 4% of students in each district are gifted/talented, regardless of the individual district composition.
Flat Weight System
Under this funding mechanism, districts receive funding for each student who meets the identification criteria. The weight or dollar amount is the same regardless of the student’s individual characteristics. For example, all English language learners in a state would receive the same weight, regardless of their proficiency level.
Under a foundation formula, districts receive a base amount of funding per student with additional money or weights added to meet the needs of high-need student populations.
High-Cost Students System
Because of the financial burden some education services can impose on a district, some states provide additional funding for very high-cost students. This is often coupled with another funding mechanism to help offset that cost of some services. For example, while districts are responsible for the cost of special education services up to a certain threshold, if costs exceed that threshold, that state would then provide additional funding to the district.
Multiple Weights System
Under a multiple weights system, more than one weight or dollar amount is assigned based on certain factors. For example, in special education funding, the weights can be assigned based on severity of disability (e.g., mild, moderate or severe) or a multiple weight formula may be more generalized (e.g., tiered amounts based on grade level).
Under this model, districts submit actual expenditures to the state, and the state reimburses districts for all or a portion of their actual spending.
Resource Allocation Model
Under a resource allocation model, states distribute resources rather than assigning weights or dollar values based on certain criteria. For example, the state would provide funding for a prescribed number of teaching positions based on student counts.
- 50-State Comparison: K-12 Special Education Funding
- The Importance of At-Risk Funding
- School Funding is Complicated – So Let’s Do Something About It
PUBLISHED: August 5, 2019
RESOURCE TYPE: 50-State Comparison