As states work to prepare for the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the continued focus on making education more equitable, which states and districts have been working towards in recent decades, will remain a core objective in the pursuit to increase the success of every student. One way states are already working to achieve this is by providing increased funding for economically disadvantaged, or “at-risk,” students.

A new Policy Analysis from Education Commission of the States, The Importance of At-Risk Funding, discusses the impact of increased funding for at-risk students and reviews the methods that each state uses to identify these students. The report also reviews whether states use a funding formula or a categorical program to determine the allocated funding amount.

“A series of studies reveal successful outcomes from providing at-risk students with additional funding,” said Emily Parker, a policy analyst in the Postsecondary and Workforce Development Institute at Education Commission of the States. “These outcomes can have lasting impacts, including higher rates of educational attainment, higher lifetime earnings and a reduction in the incidence of adult poverty.”

This report provides a detailed view of the at-risk funding models for the 43 states plus the District of Columbia that allocate additional funds to at-risk students.

Some key takeaways from this report:

  • Forty-three states plus the District of Columbia provide additional funding for at-risk students, either through their school funding formula or through a categorical funding program.
  • Four states – Alaska, Delaware, Idaho and South Dakota do not have programs to fund at-risk students. The remaining three states are either transitioning to a new funding system or have an unfunded program.
  • Although there are more than 20 methods that states use to determine a student’s at-risk status, a majority of states use the student’s eligibility for the National School Lunch Program as a determining factor.

For questions, contact Education Commission of the States Communications Director Amy Skinner at or (303) 299.3609.

Tweet this ECS report!

  • New report from @edcommission looks at the importance of at-risk funding #edpolicy
  • New @edcommission report shows discrepancy between states on how at-risk students are funded #EdPolicy
  • Majority of states use student’s eligibility for the NSLP as a determining factor for at-risk status @edcommission

Related ECS resources that you’ll find useful:

State Funding Mechanisms for English Language Learners: This report, published in 2015, reviews the ways states finance English language learners and allows policymakers to evaluate their own funding models against those from other states.

State Funding for Students with Disabilities: This report, published in 2015, reviews states’ primary funding mechanisms for students with disabilities, clarifies strengths and weaknesses of these mechanisms and provides other funding considerations.

 PUBLISHED: June 21, 2016




 STATE(S): Nationwide

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