How Public Schools Are Paid For

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”

But who exactly are the main investors in the knowledge sought from schools? Though private institutes normally charge tuition fees from their students, public schools don’t.

Public schools, also widely known as state schools, offer both primary and secondary education to students free of charge, and are usually non-selective i.e. inclusive, in admitting students in the area they serve.

How then are they funded and who ensures they keep functioning well?

Since they are state-owned, the obvious answer quite rightly, is that they are usually wholly or partly funded by governments via taxation.

Property taxes and other sources

A major proportion of the cost of running public schools is covered by the property taxes levied upon real estate owners by the government. Although other factors like donations and fundraising efforts by students and parents pitch in, they are only able to cover a very small portion of the total cost. Contributions from federal government too are only about 10% of the total. It is the state and local governments who majorly cater to the public school system.

However, more than half the funds coming from local property taxes present a pitfall. It leads to funding differences between public schools in wealthy communities and those in mediocre communities. This is because property taxes by their nature are higher in flourishing societies compared to poorer areas. As a result, students in public schools located in the poorer neighborhoods get access to fewer resources and perhaps even lower quality education than their counterparts in better areas.

Often local or state government tries to bridge this gap by trying to cover what the taxes couldn’t so as to meet and fulfill the basic budget allocated per student. They may also redistribute money from areas which are able to generate far more than what is needed per person to districts which are unable to generate an adequate amount for serving their local students well.

Budget Allocation

The budget per student is in turn determined by certain factors as discussed below.

Most governments simply decide this by dividing their total budget to be spent on public education by the total number of students to be catered to. However, they may add more money for certain districts (for instance those really small or completely destitute districts) or certain groups of students (like those extra talented or students with special needs and so on).

The K-12 Schools

The K-12 system which is an educational technology term used in US for the publicly-supported school grades from Kindergarten (K) to grade 12, serves about 6.2 million students in various school programs. About 8000 public schools are operated in California alone, with the state covering about 57% of the total cost, property taxes and other local sources covering about 29% and federal government covering the remaining 14%.

So that’s how public schools are funded and huge populations of children are being allowed to attend school and be educated without paying any direct fees on their own.

And you are helping them out. Your tax money is helping the world become a better place!

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3 Thoughts to “How Public Schools Are Paid For”

  1. Courtney

    As someone who lives in a state with one of the lowest allocations of school funding in the country, reading things like this really saddens me. The state and the county governments are the ones failing kids in my area.

  2. Anna C.

    How can education be the great equalizer when the quality of the education you receive is based on the wealth of your community?

  3. Emma K

    This article was interesting, but I would have liked to read more about solutions to the disparities in public school funding.

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