Education Funding

August 31, 2018 – Volume 28, Issue 30
Should states increase funding for public schools? By Barbara Mantel


Striking teachers and other demonstrators protest inside the Oklahoma State Capitol (Cover: Getty Images/Bloomberg/Scott Heins)  
Striking teachers and other demonstrators protest inside the Oklahoma State Capitol during an April 3 rally in Oklahoma City, part of a wave of teacher protests in six states demanding increased pay and more public school funding. Oklahoma teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation. (Cover: Getty Images/Bloomberg/Scott Heins)

A wave of public school teacher protests this year swept through six of the states where educators are paid less than the national average and their inflation-adjusted salaries are lower than before the 2007–09 recession. Lawmakers made concessions to the demonstrators, but some labor experts predict more teacher protests after the new school year begins. The protests reinvigorated long-running debates about how best to pay teachers, whether increasing school spending would significantly improve student achievement and whether school voucher programs should continue to expand. The demonstrations also inspired many teachers around the country to run for office in November's local, state and congressional elections or to campaign for candidates who support higher teacher salaries and increased spending on school supplies, support staff and infrastructure. Meanwhile, many experts question whether teachers unions can harness the protest movement's momentum to increase membership and political clout: The Supreme Court in June ruled that public-sector unions, including those representing teachers, could no longer collect fees from nonunion members working in unionized workplaces.

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On April 26, more than 50,000 Arizona educators and their supporters marched on the Capitol in Phoenix, launching the largest teacher walkout in state history. They wore red T-shirts, carried red banners and chanted “Red for Ed,” their campaign slogan.

For weeks they had been urging elected officials to raise teacher salaries — the sixth lowest among the 50 states — by 20 percent before the next school year, increase support-staff wages and restore overall education funding for K-12 schools to levels that existed before the 2007–09 recession.1

“I've had to downsize my home so I could still afford to teach,” Irene Vasquez, 56, a math teacher in Peoria with 23 years of teaching experience, who also works part-time jobs to help pay for her children's college education, said at a rally the next day.2

The walkout lasted six days, ending when Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed a budget bill that included money for a 9 percent increase in teacher salaries this year and promised to fight for additional raises in coming years. The measure did not address the teachers' other demands.3

The Phoenix demonstrations were part of a wave of grassroots teacher protests in six states, just some of the states where educators are paid less than the national average and their inflation-adjusted salaries are below prerecession levels. The protests — which began in February with a nine-day walkout in West Virginia and ended in May with a massive day-long rally in North Carolina — raised concerns about employee benefits as well, such as rising health insurance costs and the solvency of state pension systems in some states.4 And they worked — to a degree. Lawmakers in most of the states made some concessions to teachers.

Sam Brownback, then the Republican governor of Kansas (AP Photo/The Topeka Capital-Journal/Thad Alton)  
Sam Brownback, then the Republican governor of Kansas and a critic of what he called wasteful spending by public school administrators, addresses the media in June 2017 after signing a bill to increase state funding for schools. The measure resulted from a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that said the state had failed to ensure adequate school funding. The court said this June the new law is still inadequate because it did not take inflation into account. (AP Photo/The Topeka Capital-Journal/Thad Alton)

The demonstrations also had a wider impact. They focused national attention on education spending and prompted many teachers across the country to run for office in November's state, local and congressional elections. In addition, the protests reinvigorated longstanding debates over whether teachers are, in fact, underpaid, whether they should be paid based on performance and whether boosting education spending improves student achievement.

Opponents of across-the-board teacher pay raises often advocate performance-based pay, or basing teachers' salaries on their effectiveness in the classroom and in raising students' test scores. Eric Hanushek, an economist specializing in education and a senior fellow at the generally right-leaning Hoover Institution think tank at Stanford University, says that while the walkouts received a lot of attention and a fair amount of sympathy, they “were misguided because none of those discussions actually talked about adjusting pay more for [teacher] effectiveness.” He adds, “The argument … is that we have to pay teachers more so that they don't leave the profession. But there are some that we want to leave, and … some that we don't.”

Performance-based pay has long been dismissed by the nation's largest teachers unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), as leading to an excessive focus on standardized tests. “It's basically just another failed idea,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “They use it as a pretext not to pay teachers a livable wage. In West Virginia, Oklahoma and other places, people are working two and three jobs to make ends meet.”

In most jurisdictions, state and local governments roughly split the tab for a little more than 90 percent of education costs. States finance their share from taxes, fees and lottery revenue, while local governments depend almost exclusively on property taxes. The federal government picks up the remaining 8 percent or so of K-12 school funding, much of it in the form of grants for educating students with disabilities or from low-income backgrounds.

To offset revenues lost during the recession, most states cut education and other spending rather than raise taxes. At the same time, municipal property tax revenues fell due to the housing crisis. But even though the recession ended nine years ago, the national average teacher salary in 2018 — $60,483 — is 4 percent below 2009 levels, adjusted for inflation, according to the NEA.5 For comparison, government data show that for all private-sector employees, average weekly earnings, adjusted for inflation, rose 6.3 percent during that period.6

However, nationwide teacher salary figures mask large variations among the states. The average annual teacher salary in top-paying New York state, for instance, is close to $84,000, nearly double the average in lowest-paying Mississippi, where teachers earn less than they did nine years ago, when adjusted for inflation. Arizona teachers earn an average of $47,746 a year — 11 percent less than they did in 2009, according to the NEA.7

Although teacher salaries constitute the largest chunk of public school spending, governments also pay for books, supplies, support staff, administrative services, infrastructure repairs, construction, health insurance and pensions. The solvency of teacher pension funds were a major focus of some of the protests; 70 percent of state contributions to teachers' pension plans are earmarked for debt payments rather than future benefits, according to a recent analysis. And, the researchers said, teachers often accept lower base pay in exchange for pension benefits, but only “one in five stays on the job long enough to receive full benefits at retirement.”8

In the 2016–17 school year, combined state and local education funding nationwide per student had returned to 2008 levels, after adjusting for inflation, according to the latest government data. But spending varies widely by state: 26 states exceeded prerecession spending by 2016, but the rest lagged behind, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a liberal research institute in Washington that assesses how government spending affects low-income families.9

The chart shows the percent decline from 2008 levels in per-pupil state and local public school funding, as of 2016.  

Long Description

Combined state and local funding for K-12 public schools declined during and after the 2007–09 recession but recovered in 26 states by 2016. In 24 states, however, funding remained below 2008 levels, with the steepest declines in Arizona and Florida. State and local governments provide more than 90 percent of public school funding, and the federal government provides the rest.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Data for the graphic are as follows:

State Percentage Below 2008 Levels (adjusted for inflation)
Arizona −23.4%
Florida −22.9%
North Carolina −18.6%
Nevada −17.5%
Georgia −15.0%
Alabama −14.8%
Idaho −13.8%
Oklahoma −13.2%
New Mexico −9.6%
Michigan −7.2%
Virginia −7.1%
Kansas −7.0%
Maryland −6.7%
Utah −5.4%
Wisconsin −3.9%
Louisiana −3.5%
Delaware −2.8%
Ohio −2.8%
Mississippi −2.6%
South Carolina −2.3%
Texas −2.0%
Kentucky −1.2%
Colorado −1.0%
Montana −0.6%

Several factors account for the jurisdictional differences, such as the cost of living, the severity of the recession and the pace of the local economic recovery, teacher experience, student needs and government policies — such as tax cuts.10

“While most states avoided raising new revenue after the recession hit,” says Michael Leachman, the CBPP's senior director of state fiscal research, some “actually cut state income taxes” and made deep cuts in public school funding. Those states — Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina and Oklahoma — were all Republican-controlled during that period. (North Carolina elected a Democratic governor in 2016 but the legislature remained under Republican control).11

“In these states, you see education funding not really recovering, even as the economy was recovering,” says Leachman. “They have dug themselves a hole that is hard to see them getting out of without reversing those tax cuts.” Local politicians argue that spending more money on K-12 education is unnecessary and that efforts should be focused instead on eliminating wasteful spending.

The actions in those states, according to the CBPP, helped to change the mix of state and local education funding nationwide between 2008 and 2016, with states, on average, shifting more of the burden to local governments. The local share of school funding rose from 43.7 percent to 44.5 percent nationwide during that period, and the state share fell from 48.3 percent to 47.4 percent, Leachman calculates. While that is not a huge change, he says, it is heading in the wrong direction because property wealth varies so much by school district. A greater reliance on local property taxes exacerbates the gap in education spending between rich and poor districts, he says.

To address the inequity problem, some states use funding formulas that provide more money to lower-income districts. But those formulas often are insufficient to level the playing field. Activist groups are suing 10 states, charging they are not equitably funneling education money to poor districts or that overall funding is insufficient.

Meanwhile, some analysts say it is unclear whether teachers and their unions can build on the momentum from this year's activism, after the Supreme Court in June ruled that public-sector unions can no longer collect so-called agency fees from nonmember employees in unionized workplaces. Twenty-three states allow unions to collect such fees. Some conservative education specialists say the ruling could significantly weaken teachers unions, but the unions dispute that claim.12

Against this backdrop, here are some of the questions that taxpayers, elected officials, educators, union leaders and analysts are asking:

Does higher spending on public education improve student achievement?

In June, Nebraska state Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, a Republican, took aim at her state's spending on education. Nebraska spends more per pupil than many of its neighbors, she said, but its test scores are about the same.

“In fact, in some states that spend considerably less, students perform better,” she said. “Those calling for more spending, without a plan to improve outcomes for all students, must be honest about the facts.”13

In Alabama, Scott Dawson, a Republican from Birmingham who lost his bid to run for governor in his party's primary, said the problem in his state is not low spending but waste. “The education bureaucracy gets too much of our money while some teachers are paying for school supplies out of their own pockets,” said Dawson. “We keep pouring money into the Education Trust Fund, and we're still at the bottom when it comes to results.”14

The map shows the average United States teacher salary by state, for 2018.  

Long Description

The average annual salary of public school teachers in the United States was $60,483 in 2018, with wide variations by state, according to the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union. Mississippi teachers earned the least — an average of $43,107 — while teachers in New York state earned the most, $83,585.

Source: “Rankings of the States 2017 and Estimates of School Statistics 2018,” National Education Association, April, 2018, p. 49,

Data for the graphic are as follows:

State Average Teacher salary, in dollars
Alabama $50,239
Alaska $69,474
Arizona $47,746
Arkansas $49,017
California $81,126
Colorado $52,389
Connecticut $73,113
Delaware $60,484
Florida $47,721
Georgia $56,329
Hawaii $57,866
Idaho $49,225
Illinois $65,776
Indiana $54,846
Iowa $56,790
Kansas $50,403
Kentucky $52,952
Louisiana $50,256
Maine $51,663
Maryland $69,761
Massachusetts $79,710
Michigan $62,702
Minnesota $57,782
Mississippi $43,107
Missouri $49,208
Montana $52,776
Nebraska $53,473
Nevada $57,812
New Hampshire $57,833
New Jersey $69,917
New Mexico $47,839
New York $83,585
North Carolina $50,861
North Dakota $54,421
Ohio $58,000
Oklahoma $45,678
Oregon $63,143
Pennsylvania $67,398
Rhode Island $66,758
South Carolina $51,027
South Dakota $47,944
Tennessee $50,900
Texas $53,167
Utah $47,604
Vermont $58,527
Virginia $51,265
Washington $55,175
West Virginia $45,642
Wisconsin $55,895
Wyoming $58,578

Such complaints were even more common after the recession hit, when state officials were making deep cuts in education funding. For example, when then-Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a Republican, cut the state education budget in 2015, he pointed to a Kansas City high school's purchase of a $48,000 grand piano as an example of waste.15

Others say spending more on things like building repairs, higher teacher salaries and smaller class sizes will pay off in higher student achievement.

A handful of recent large-scale studies examined the impact of recession-era spending cuts on student outcomes as well as the effect of dozens of court-mandated infusions of state money to low-income school districts. Advocacy groups and school districts over the years have sued several states for not providing equal access to education, as is guaranteed by state constitutions. The researchers found that permanent additional money improved student achievement and high school graduation rates and decreased poverty rates, while sharp spending cuts had the opposite effect.16

Advocates for greater education funding frequently cite a study conducted by Northwestern University economist C. Kirabo Jackson and his colleagues. They looked at changes in state education funding formulas ordered by the courts between 1970 and 2010.

“Increased per-pupil spending, induced by court-ordered SFRs [school finance reforms] increased high school graduation rates, educational attainment, earnings and family incomes for children who attended school after these reforms were implemented in affected districts,” the researchers said. The effects were more pronounced for low-income students and reducing class size, raising teacher salaries and extending the school year had the most impact, they said.17

Critics such as the Hoover Institution's Hanushek questioned those results. Per-pupil expenditures, adjusted for inflation, increased 150 percent nationwide between 1970 and 2010, the period covered in the study, he said. That includes all spending, not just court-ordered infusions. So if the study's calculations are correct and applied to all education spending, “shouldn't we have seen fairly dramatic improvements in overall education and labor market outcomes?” he asked. “In reality … the gaps in attainment, high school graduation and family poverty have remained significant, largely resisting any major improvement.”18

David Garcia, an education professor at Arizona State University (AP Photo/Anita Snow)  
David Garcia, an education professor at Arizona State University who made boosting education funding a central issue in his campaign, won the Democratic primary for governor of Arizona on Aug. 28. Analysts say teacher walkouts in the state earlier this year were a key factor in his win. In the Nov. 6 general election Garcia will face incumbent Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who signed a budget bill after the walkouts that included money for a possible 9 percent pay raise for teachers. (AP Photo/Anita Snow)

Hanushek posited three possible explanations for this outcome: Returns may have diminished sharply as spending was ramped up over the years; only spending increases mandated by courts had an impact on student outcomes; or the estimates of Jackson and his co-authors were wrong.

But Bruce Baker, an education professor at Rutgers University who specializes in education finance and economics, says comparing aggregate national spending to aggregate national student outcomes, as Hanushek did, does not take into account “all the other factors that go into the puzzle.”

Instead, as Jackson and his colleagues pointed out in response to Hanushek's critique, their study used fine-grained data on individual students and compared those who attended school before the court-ordered spending increases with similar students in the same district who attended afterward. Thus, they said, they were able to control for other potential factors, such as changes in family structure, childhood poverty and the character of neighborhoods.19

Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the libertarian Cato Institute think tank in Washington, says that while there may be evidence that spending more on low-income students can help, “we don't have great evidence of how it makes a difference or how much difference it makes.” And, he says, poverty, poor nutrition and the amount of reading and homework support at home are the kinds of things that largely determine the trajectory of student achievement.

“So a lot of what we get in terms of testing outcomes is not controlled by schools,” says McCluskey. “We just don't see that putting more resources into schools can fix these problems. You can ameliorate them a little bit but not a whole lot.”

William Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, acknowledges that factors outside a school's control can significantly influence student performance. “But that doesn't, by any stretch of the imagination, remove our moral or legal obligation to try and give children an opportunity through education,” says Mathis. “To overcome outside factors, we have to be investing in social programs as much as in school programs.”

The latest research, Mathis says, has convinced him that money spent on schools can make a difference.

Is reforming the teacher pay system more important than giving all teachers raises?

Most Americans think public school teachers are underpaid, according to several recent surveys. For example, in an April poll by University of Chicago researchers, 78 percent of adults said teachers earn too little, and half said they would support higher taxes to pay teachers more. And a recent NPR poll found that more than two-thirds of Americans think teachers are not paid fairly, with Democrats more likely than Republicans to strongly disagree that teachers are paid fairly.20

The bar graph shows the percentage who agree or disagree that teachers are paid fairly.  

Long Description

A minority of Americans say public school teachers are paid fairly, while Democrats and Independents are more likely than Republicans to strongly disagree. Percentages may not add to 100 because of rounding.

Source: Chris Jackson and Mallory Newall, “Most Americans believe teachers have the right to strike,” Ipsos, NPR, April 26, 2018,

Data for the graphic are as follows:

Response Total Percentage Percentage of Democrats Percentage of Republicans Percentage of Independents
Strongly agree 10% 9% 15% 5%
Somewhat agree 16% 12% 21% 18%
Somewhat disagree 30% 27% 35% 25%
Strongly disagree 38% 47% 24% 44%
Don't know 5% 5% 4% 7%

But some education analysts say across-the-board salary increases are a bad idea and that, instead, more states and school districts should reform how teachers are paid. To attract and retain excellent teachers, they say, compensation should be closely linked to teacher performance in the classroom rather than to seniority and advanced degrees.

“The connection between credentials and teaching effectiveness is very weak at best,” said Jacob Vigdor, a professor of public policy and governance at the University of Washington, “and the connection between additional years of experience and teaching effectiveness, while substantial in the first few years in the classroom, attenuates over time.”21

Performance-based pay was embraced by President Barack Obama's Education Department, which issued grants to high-need districts to establish such programs. As a result, district- and school-based performance-pay programs exist in almost every state, but only nine states require districts to consider performance in teacher pay.22

Teachers unions and others oppose the idea, saying, for one thing, that raising the base salary of all teachers, especially in low-wage states, should be the priority. “If a teacher has to work three or four jobs, then all of that teacher's time after school and on weekends is spent working as opposed to being focused on the kids in her classroom,” says AFT President Weingarten. “How can that teacher focus on performance? It's ridiculous.”

Besides, say opponents, measuring teacher performance is tricky and often unfair. For example, if teacher evaluations depend heavily on student scores on standardized tests, then teachers are being penalized for something they cannot control, says Weingarten. “Socioeconomic well-being is more of a predictor of how well students score than anything else,” she says.

But performance pay can be made fair, says Scott Sargrad, managing director of K-12 education policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy research and advocacy organization in Washington. Teacher evaluations to determine compensation do not have to focus on standardized test scores, he says.

“There are comprehensive evaluation systems that include things like peer review and frequent observations by trained observers and that look at student learning by having teachers set learning objectives and work with evaluators to determine whether students met those objectives,” says Sargrad. Nevertheless, any performance-pay system should be adopted in addition to raising base pay for all teachers, not in place of it, he says.

Hanushek of the Hoover Institution, a longtime advocate of performance-based pay, opposes across-the-board salary increases because they reward ineffective teachers, he says. Rather, he says, teachers who receive the worst evaluations in a school or district should be fired.

In addition, he says student test scores should not be excluded from teacher evaluations, as long they are not the main ingredient and evaluators use something called a value-added measurement. It attempts to measure a teacher's contribution to student achievement while controlling for other variables, such as poverty. It does this by comparing the current scores of a teacher's students to their scores in previous years and to the scores of students' peers.

Researchers have been studying performance pay for several years. The Education Department completed a study last year of 10 school districts that agreed to be assigned randomly to implement either a performance-pay bonus system or a 1 percent across-the-board bonus. “On average, pay-for-performance bonuses led to slightly higher student achievement in schools that offered such bonuses than in schools that did not,” said the researchers. “This difference was equivalent to a gain of three to four additional weeks of learning.”23

“There are some studies that do show some positive effects, but there are lots of studies that are just kind of null on incentive compensation,” says Baker of Rutgers. “It's a pretty mixed bag at this point.” For example, a recent study of three school districts that linked teacher bonuses to student achievement and classroom observations, conducted by researchers at the RAND Corp. think tank in Santa Monica, Calif., found that the programs did not improve student outcomes.24

Hanushek says many of the pay-for-performance programs that have been studied used only positive incentives without penalties, but he says both are needed.

For example, the District of Columbia's performance-pay system, implemented in the 2009–10 school year, has both rewards and penalties, he says, and a study of the program's first three years showed positive results. Not only did it nudge teacher performance higher, it weeded out ineffective teachers, he says.

The city's teacher evaluation system depends partly on value-added student test scores but mostly on the ratings of outside evaluators, who observe teachers several times a year and a give them a numerical score, based on multiple criteria. These include how well they explain concepts and if they check to see if students understand. Those rated highly effective get a large bonus and an equally large permanent salary increase after two years. Ineffective teachers are immediately dismissed, and minimally effective teachers are given a year to improve, with the help of coaches.

The study found the scores of the highest-rated teachers improved over time, while many minimally effective teachers left voluntarily. The high rate of turnover among the lowest-performing teachers had “positive consequences for student achievement,” said Thomas Dee and James Wyckoff, the study authors.25

Do vouchers erode public school funding and hurt student outcomes?

Just weeks after winning the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump picked Michigan billionaire businesswoman Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education, and conservatives cheered. Jim DeMint, then-president of the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, said “the school choice movement will have a champion in the Education Department.”26

But to union leaders, DeVos was the enemy. “She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers' expense,” said NEA President Eskelsen García.27

For decades, DeVos championed “school choice” policies, such as school vouchers, which give families state money they can use to send their children to private secular or, in some states, religious schools. The voucher amount can be all or part of what the state would have spent on the child in public school. Twenty-six voucher programs are now operating in 15 states and Washington, D.C., according to EdChoice, an organization in Indianapolis that advocates for school choice.28

For the most part, eligible students must have disabilities or be low-income or attend poorly performing public schools. Some states have extended their programs to include middle-class students or to allow students who already attend private schools to participate. Indiana, which made both those changes in 2013, has the nation's largest voucher program.29

But experts disagree over how much financial harm, if any, vouchers cause public schools when voucher holders leave for a private school, taking their state education money with them. Voucher supporters say that while public schools lose state money with each transfer, they also have fewer costs.

Jessica Maleskey, a high school teacher in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Chase Stevens)  
Jessica Maleskey, a high school teacher in Henderson, Nev., discusses school crowding on Aug. 2 as she prepares for the new academic year in a classroom with desks for 46 students. Nevada's school funding has decreased 17.5 percent, adjusted for inflation, since 2008. School funding in nearly half of the states has not returned to prerecession levels. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Chase Stevens)

“When students leave, you don't need as many textbooks or supplies,” says Martin Lueken, EdChoice's director of fiscal policy and analysis. “And if you see enough students leave so that you can consolidate classrooms, then you would need fewer staff or teachers as well.”

These are what economists call variable costs. However, schools also have fixed costs that remain even if enrollment declines, such as the upkeep of school buildings or the interest on outstanding loans. Fixed costs account for about a third of per-pupil short-term expenses, according to an EdChoice study, and, with time, they too can be adjusted, says Lueken.30

Besides, vouchers are paid for from the state's share of education funds, so public schools do not lose the voucher student's share of local funds when they leave the public school, says Patrick Wolf, a professor of education policy at the University of Arkansas and a voucher researcher. “And the fixed costs get covered by the local funding,” he says.

But voucher opponents say those fixed costs are larger and more pervasive than EdChoice makes out. “For example, districts are still going to have to likely run the same bus routes and employ the same number of bus drivers because students leaving for private school are probably not all going to be from the same spot,” says Sargrad of the Center for American Progress.

In addition, unlike large city school districts with a portfolio of buildings they can shift among, small and midsize districts may not be able to shutter a school building in favor of a smaller one, says Sargrad. “And whether that building has 1,000 or 500 students, you still have the same costs of running it — the maintenance, the heating, the lighting, the air conditioning, the janitorial staff and all sorts of things.”

Moreover, early studies of student achievement have shown mixed results for voucher programs, and several recent studies have shown negative effects, at least at first. For instance, in the District of Columbia, which uses a lottery to select students for its voucher program, math scores were significantly lower for voucher students after two years at private school, compared to lottery applicants who were not selected and remained in public school, according to a study released in May. Differences in reading scores were statistically insignificant.31

The results were the same in Louisiana, according to researchers. But at the end of year three, there was no statistically significant difference between lottery winners and losers in math and reading scores.32 A similar pattern emerged in a study of Indiana's program. Voucher students lost ground in their first two years of the program compared to nonvoucher students but began to improve after four years.33

Wolf, who conducted the Louisiana study with a colleague, says it is difficult to know exactly what is behind these trends, but several factors could be involved. Research shows when children switch schools for any reason, their grades often suffer initially until they adjust, says Wolf. In addition, it can take time for private schools to figure how to best serve voucher students, many of whom are from low-income households or may have special needs, he says.

A study of Ohio's voucher program had different results: The negative effects for voucher participants on test scores lasted beyond the first two years.34

Thus, the latest research is not definitive. If voucher programs are academically neutral and do not hurt public schools financially, say voucher supporters, then all families — not just the wealthy or middle class — should have the right to choose where their children go to school.

“In a free society like ours, individuals are empowered to make important decisions on behalf of their children — about food, health care, prekindergarten and college. Why should K-12 be different?” says Lueken.

But opponents say the private schools participating in voucher programs are sometimes unregulated and often of poor quality.

“The combination of recent evidence that voucher programs can actually harm student learning and the fact that they divert public money from public schools designed to serve all students means they are not an effective or appropriate use of public dollars,” says Sargrad.

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Earliest Schools

Boston Latin School, established in 1635 as the first public school in the American colonies, continues to operate to this day. In colonial times, it offered a free education in Latin, Greek and the humanities to Boston boys, mostly from prominent families, to prepare them for the Harvard College entrance exam. Five signers of the Declaration of Independence attended the school, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin.35

During its first decade the school was funded mostly through donations and income from rental property, until the town assigned public revenues to cover its expenses. The citizens of Rehoboth and Dedham, also in Massachusetts, became the first to publicly fund schools, voting for a school tax in 1643 and 1644, respectively.36

Publicly subsidized schools became more common after the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1647 required towns with more than 100 families to establish and pay for elementary schools. Connecticut also devoted public money for elementary schools, which taught children religion and basic literacy. But in other colonies, “education was more haphazard,” wrote Johann N. Neem, a history professor at Western Washington University.37

In most colonies, which were largely agricultural, families were generally responsible for educating their children. They hired tutors, joined together to support so-called subscription schools with monthly fees, sent their children to charity schools or voted to support schools “on a year-to-year basis through a combination of parental fees and town support,” wrote Carl F. Kaestle, professor emeritus of education, history and public policy at Brown University. “Or they did nothing about schooling.”38

By the end of the American Revolution in 1783, this haphazard approach to education was of growing concern to several of the nation's leaders. To some, a universal education with a more systematic curriculum was needed to ensure Americans were morally fit for citizenship in a republican nation. Others, such as Thomas Jefferson, believed that educated adults were needed to effectively guard their liberties from potentially corrupt political elites.39

However, the Virginia Legislature rejected Jefferson's proposal for a state-funded, parent-controlled system of elementary education for white children, and the Pennsylvania Legislature dismissed a similar proposal. Meanwhile, Massachusetts only weakly enforced its law requiring towns to provide elementary schools.

Thus, a free, public school education was out of reach for most children.

‘Age of Academies’

That began to change in the early 19th century, as education reformers pushed for mandatory, free public education. It took several decades for such a system to develop.

“Even as policy leaders sought to build public schools, they simultaneously encouraged citizens to organize themselves into state-chartered schools called academies,” wrote Neem. “Indeed, the era between the Revolution and the Civil War has been called the ‘age of academies.’”40

These not-for-profit schools typically were funded by private donations to cover land, buildings and other startup costs. Operating expenses were funded with tuition and state subsidies, derived in part from the interest on income from state land sales. Academies offered a basic education in reading and writing to young children. Older children through the age of 13 studied Greek, Latin, history, math, modern languages and various sciences, as well as practical subjects such as bookkeeping and surveying. By 1855, more than 6,000 academies, most of which were coeducational, were in operation.41

Most students were from middle- or upper-class backgrounds. Ultimately, according to Neem, many state legislators and governors concluded that since lower-income families could not afford the tuition, the academies “exacerbated the division between the haves and the have-nots.”42

As a result, subscription schools gradually gave way to district schools, funded through local taxes and some tuition. Citizens voted on whether and how much tax to pay for elementary education and elected district school boards, which were authorized to collect the taxes. In addition, citizens often disagreed over the curricula, with some wanting the district to provide a broader education while others believed only the basics were necessary.

That divide was evident in the debate surrounding public high schools. Advocates argued that public high schools “would expose the most talented children to the kind of education before available only to rich children,” wrote Neem. But many Americans wondered why taxpayers should foot the bill, especially since poor teenagers, whose families needed them to work on farms or in factories, would not be able to attend. “High schools thus remained on the margins of American public education,” said Neem. By 1890, only 6.7 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds were enrolled.43

Meanwhile, education reformers, such as Horace Mann, the Massachusetts secretary of education and the first such official in the United States, were dismayed by the conditions of district schools and pushed for greater state control and supervision, according to documentary filmmakers and writers Sheila Curran Bernard and Sarah Mondale. In the 1840s, Mann had toured 1,000 Massachusetts district schools and found the vast majority lacked adequate light, heat and ventilation and had no blackboards or standardized textbooks. In addition, poor children could not afford the tuition.44

In his writings and at public meetings, Mann argued for a system of free common schools, funded exclusively by tax dollars, with state-enforced standards. His ideas were fiercely debated and opposed by many who were reluctant to cede local control to distant officials in state capitals. “Nonetheless, by 1860, across the Northeast and the Midwest, state laws established the position of state superintendent of instruction” and required local property taxes to support free schools, wrote Kaestle.45

The result of the common schools movement was wider access to free education, longer school terms, more standardized instruction within states and greater teacher professionalism, said Kaestle. But it also bequeathed to Americans a reliance on local property taxes to fund schools, “a system that results in drastic variation in school expenditures across communities,” he wrote.46

Public education also was a racist system. Before the Civil War, the majority of blacks lived in the South, most as slaves, and had little or no access to education. In fact, after the slave revolt led by Nat Turner in 1831, “all slave states except Maryland, Kentucky and Tennessee passed laws against teaching slaves to read and write,” according to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.47 Blacks in the North, entitled to attend public school, often were segregated in separate and inferior facilities. In 1855, Massachusetts became the first state to abolish school segregation.48

After the Civil War ended in 1865, all 4 million freed slaves needed an education. Congress required Southern states seeking readmission to the Union to write new state constitutions guaranteeing a public education for all citizens.49 The federal government also established the Freedmen's Bureau to supervise relief and education for former slaves. Settlers migrating west in vast numbers also demanded schools, and Congress required new Western states to adopt constitutions guaranteeing a free, nonsectarian education for all children. Between 1870 and 1890, public school enrollment rose from 7.6 million to 12.7 million.50

Yet African-American children in most states continued to attend separate schools with inferior buildings, supplies and funding. It took until 1954 for segregated public schools to be outlawed, when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” and violate the U.S. Constitution.51

20th-Century Schools

Between 1920 and 1936, high school enrollment jumped from 38 percent to 65 percent. Several factors were behind the boom in high school construction and attendance, often referred to as the “second great transformation” of American education.52

Technological innovations meant factories needed fewer teenage workers. Child labor laws were strengthened. Parents' aspirations for their children's future were rising, according to historian William J. Reese, and the Great Depression meant fewer jobs for everyone. However, poverty and racism conspired against Southern black teenagers. Hundreds of counties in the South did not have a single black high school.53

The rising burden for funding education for the nation's children fell mostly to local governments. In the 1930s, cities and counties “provided 70 percent of the revenues for public schools and 29 percent came from state governments. The federal government provided less than 1 percent,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics.54

That began to change during World War II, when the federal government sent money to local school districts that were experiencing an influx of students from military families from nearby military bases. After the war, Congress passed laws asserting greater federal involvement in public education, and the federal share of education funding continued to rise. By the 1970s, these proportions would resemble today's, with the federal government responsible for about 9 percent of education funding and the rest split almost evenly between state and local governments.55

In 1958, in response to the 1957 Soviet launching of Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite, Congress passed the first comprehensive federal education legislation. The National Defense Education Act was intended to “ensure that highly trained individuals would be available to help America compete with the Soviet Union in scientific and technical fields,” according to a government history. The law included support for higher education and for instruction in science, mathematics and foreign languages in elementary and secondary schools.56

Meanwhile, public schools remained mostly segregated, despite the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin and prohibited segregation in public places, including in public schools.57 The landmark law set the stage for the forced busing of children in the 1970s to achieve desegregation, a controversial policy that accelerated the migration of middle-class white families from the cities to the suburbs.

In 1965, Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a cornerstone of his so-called war on poverty and a historic federal commitment to equal access to quality education. Still in force today, Title I of the act distributes federal funds to school districts with a high percentage of low-income students and accounts for the vast majority of ESEA spending.

Title I “was designed to close the skill gap in reading, writing and mathematics between children from low-income households who attend urban or rural school systems and children from the middle-class who attend suburban school systems,” according to the Social Welfare History Project at Virginia Commonwealth University.58 “Racial and ethnic achievement gaps have been on a gradual, and at times bumpy, decline since the 1970s,” but remain significant, said a report by the Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank in Washington.59

Meanwhile, two recessions in the early 1970s and early '80s led states to look for an additional source of revenue. By the late 1980s, 28 states had instituted lotteries, often touting them as painless ways to boost funding for public schools.60 Today, 44 states have lotteries, which account for about 1 percent of state revenues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).61 However, researchers have found that overall educating spending does not increase in states that institute lotteries because states often cut school spending by a commensurate amount received from lotteries.62

In 1983, a federal report commissioned by Republican President Ronald Reagan lambasted the state of public school education in the United States. “A Nation at Risk,” which drew massive media attention, found rapidly declining student test scores and low salaries, poor training and high turnover among teachers. High school students performed worse on standardized tests than before Sputnik, and only one-fifth of 17-year olds could write a persuasive essay.63

Concern about the quality of public school education culminated in 2002 with Republican President George W. Bush's signing of a bipartisan reauthorization — and overhaul — of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Called No Child Left Behind, the law tied federal funding for public schools to drastic reforms, including:

  • Public schools receiving federal funds had to administer math and English standardized tests to students in third through eighth grades annually and once to high schoolers;

  • Schools receiving Title I funds had to make “adequate yearly progress” on test scores or they could be re-staffed, taken over by the state, turned into charter schools — independently run public schools — or closed.

  • States had to establish standards for highly qualified teachers and develop measures for yearly progress by their students.64

The law quickly became controversial, with critics charging that: schools could not realistically meet the imposed deadlines for improvements; it subjected students to constant rounds of unnecessary testing; and schools were changing curricula to “teach to the test.”

In the 2015 ESEA reauthorization, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, Congress amended the law. Schools were required to continue administering standardized tests, but they would have much more flexibility in which tests they use. States also would have greater flexibility in how they intervene in struggling schools and were forbidden from requiring that teacher evaluations be linked to student test scores.65

By then, education funding in many states had slowly begun to recover from the 18-month-long recession, which ended in 2009 but had led to massive cuts in state and local education funding and teacher layoffs. In 24 states, combined local and state funding has not returned to prerecession levels.

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Current Situation

Getting Out the Vote

Protesting teachers are focusing on the November elections, volunteering for state and federal candidates who support their calls for higher pay and more spending on education in general.

Thirty-six governorships and more than 6,000 legislative seats in 46 states are up for election, according to the NCSL. In Congress, where Republicans control both houses, 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for grabs.66

“Many candidates or the Democratic Party in general will use teacher unrest and dissatisfaction with the status quo as a way to get the vote out or mobilize interest for largely left-leaning campaigns,” says Michael Hansen, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten (Getty Images/Aaron P. Bernstein)  
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is joined by congressional Democratic leaders at a news conference in May demanding higher teacher pay and greater investment in public schools. Teachers groups are urging voters to support politicians in the November midterm elections who vow to increase education funding. (Getty Images/Aaron P. Bernstein)

But Democrats face a daunting task. Republican control of state legislatures and governorships is at an all-time high, according to the NCSL. Republicans also control both chambers of Congress. Nevertheless, “Democrats are encouraged by signs that a possible tidal wave of ‘blue’ voters in the fall might bring them back from their historically low control over state policy,” wrote NCSL analysts. “The 2018 battle for partisan power over the states is shaping up to be dramatic.”67

Carrie Pugh, the political director for the NEA, said, “The base is really, really motivated. Their enthusiasm is there. The challenge is … how do we harness it, and how do we convert that energy into voting? It's a great problem to have.”68

Teachers are especially active in conservative states that cut taxes and made some of the deepest cuts to education during and after the recession. Drew Edmondson, the Democratic candidate for Oklahoma governor and a former state attorney general, is counting on conservative voters to sympathize with teachers.

“It's the special interests and the lobbyists who have kept our tax rates artificially low, to the detriment of our schools and hospitals and services to people,” he said. “I think that'll resonate with the Trump voter.”69

Teachers from both parties, many of them new to politics, also are running for office. For example, more than a dozen current and former teachers are seeking legislative seats in West Virginia, split nearly evenly between Democrats and Republicans. And more than a third of the 97 current and former educators running for state office in Oklahoma are Republican, some pledging to increase school funding.70

Ballot Initiatives

On August 29, an Arizona Supreme Court ruling dashed teachers' hopes of restoring the state's education funding to prerecession levels. The court knocked a tax hike proposal off the November ballot because of a poorly worded signature petition that downplayed the size of the tax increase.71

The measure proposed nearly doubling the state income tax rate on residents earning more than $250,000. The higher rate would have raised an estimated $690 million annually for public education.

In early July, backers of the Invest in Education Act submitted twice as many signatures as were needed to get the initiative on the November ballot. But a few weeks later, a group called Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy joined with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry to sue to prevent the act from appearing on the ballot, saying the signature petition was deceptively worded.72

Arizona's income tax rates are among the lowest of the 41 states that have an income tax.73

Protesters demonstrate as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (Getty Images/Paul Marotta)  
Protesters demonstrate as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks at Harvard University in September 2017. DeVos is a strong proponent of school vouchers, which provide students with public funds for tuition at private schools. Teachers unions say the vouchers diminish public school budgets. (Getty Images/Paul Marotta)

“Our politicians have led us on a 28-year spree of tax cuts that took resources away from public schools and resulted in the teacher shortage crisis we face today, classrooms with outdated textbooks and technology [and] too many students and deteriorating facilities,” proclaims the Invest in Education Act website.74

Jaime Molera, chair of Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy, cheered the court's ruling, calling the ballot measure "fatally flawed" because, he said, a tax increase would have harmed taxpayers and the state economy.75

Meanwhile in Florida, Republican lawmakers passed a ballot initiative that goes in the opposite direction. If approved by voters in November, it would amend Florida's constitution to require a two-thirds vote in both houses for the Legislature to increase taxes. Currently, a simple majority vote in the two chambers, plus the governor's signature, is required to raise revenues, as in most states.

“We want to make it as difficult as possible” to raise taxes, said Republican state Sen. Rob Bradley.76

But Samantha Waxman, a research associate at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said, “Florida has cut K-12 education funding significantly since 2008, making it harder for the state's communities to thrive.” The ballot measure “risks making those deep cuts permanent.”77

Suing the States

All 50 state constitutions guarantee the right to an education for every citizen. But states differ in how they interpret that requirement, and sometimes combined local and state spending is less per child in poor districts than in wealthy districts. In recent years, advocates for equitable school funding have sued a handful of states over their responsibility — depending on the particulars of their state constitutions — to provide an adequate or equitable education for every citizen.78

At least 10 states — Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington — face lawsuits related to their school funding. Some states, such as Arizona, are being sued for insufficient school funding, while others, such as Pennsylvania, are being sued for both insufficient funding and inequitable distribution of funding to school districts with high concentrations of poverty.79

Plaintiffs in two other states have won favorable rulings in such cases this summer. In late June, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature's latest plan to ramp up school spending over a five-year period does not sufficiently account for inflation. In response, some conservative Republican lawmakers want to amend the state constitution to block the court from reviewing overall state spending.

“A constitutional amendment is the only way to give control back to the people,” said House Speaker Ron Ryckman, a Republican. Two-thirds of the House and the Senate must agree to hold a referendum on a constitutional amendment.80

On July 20, New Mexico District Judge Sarah Singleton found that the state's education funding violated at-risk students' constitutional right to a sufficient education. The evidence, provided in a lawsuit filed in 2014 by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, “proves that the vast majority of New Mexico's at-risk children finish each school year without the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue post-secondary education or a career,” said Singleton. She gave the Legislature until April 15, 2019, to “take immediate steps to ensure that New Mexico schools have the resources necessary to give at-risk students the opportunity to obtain a uniform and sufficient education that prepares them for college and career.”81

The Education Law Center in Newark, N.J., which advocates for equal educational opportunity, and the Rutgers Graduate School of Education issued a report this year grading states on the fairness of their distribution of education resources to the neediest students. The grades were based on four measures: per-pupil funding level; distribution of funds based on schools' poverty concentration; each state's spending relative to its fiscal capacity; and the proportion of school-age students attending public schools versus private schools.

“Only two states, New Jersey and Wyoming, are positioned relatively well on all four indicators,” according to the report. “California, Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee are poorly positioned on all four fairness measures.”82

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Continued Struggles

When it comes to funding public education over the next five to 10 years, Hansen of the Brookings Institution expects the wide divide between states to persist.

“We will continue to see places like New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey spend a lot on their teachers and education, and we will continue to see places like Alabama, Mississippi, Utah and Arizona continue to underfund their schools,” he says.

Baker of Rutgers is pessimistic the gap can be closed. “We may still see some of those states that are already in crisis mode drive their systems further and further into the ground,” says Baker. “Even though those are the states where we've seen the uprisings to try to push back, I'm not sure whether that will really take hold in Arizona or Colorado, or whether we'll have continued huge divergence across the U.S. states.”

Mathis of the National Education Policy Center expects school districts and legal advocacy groups to file more lawsuits in coming years. “Court cases are the only effective way that the funding issues can be resolved at this point in time because every legislature in every state wants to hold taxes down,” he says. “And they will seize upon the rhetoric of ‘money doesn't matter’ as a justification to under-finance and under-resource [low-income] urban areas.”

Over the next decade, Wolf of the University of Arkansas expects continued expansion of private school choice — which includes vouchers, tax credits and education savings accounts — in states where the political conditions are right. “There have actually been a substantial number of private-school choice programs that have been enacted or expanded with a Democratic governor and a Republic legislature. It tends to be this kind of peace offering or compromise for state policymakers,” Wolf says. Five states have that political makeup, including Virginia and Pennsylvania.83

As for the future of membership in teachers unions after the Supreme Court ruling on agency fees, Nat Malkus, deputy director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, expects it to be a serious, long-term blow. “I don't think unions are going to go away, and they're not going to be cut in half over night, but they are going to take a serious reduction over time,” he says. “I don't think it helps to sugarcoat it. This is a defeat for labor and will affect the things that labor works for.”

Jim Testerman, a senior director of the Center for Organizing at the NEA, is reluctant to make a long-term projection for his union's membership numbers. But he says the union is working hard to harness teacher dissatisfaction with the status quo to counteract the impact of the court's ruling.

“When I took over NEA's Center for Organizing in 2012, we had come off the 2008–2009 Great Recession, and we had membership loss after membership loss,” he says. “And for the past three years, after really leaning in and really listening and connecting to our members, we've had modest membership growth every year, and we predict that for this year as well.”

Those efforts will continue for years to come, he says.

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Are teachers underpaid?


Lisette Partelow
Director, K-12 Strategic Initiatives, Center for American Progress. Written for CQ Researcher, August 2018

The teacher walkouts that occurred across the country last spring should have ended any debate about whether teachers need higher pay. The answer is an unequivocal yes. But teachers are not only underpaid; they are also undervalued.

Last spring, teachers in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia marched to their state capitals to tell legislators the status quo is untenable. After being underpaid for decades, repeatedly watching school budgets shrink — but trying to make the best of it — teachers in those states finally had had enough.

Why has it come to this? Though they vary greatly, average teacher salaries have been losing ground for decades compared to the earnings of other college-educated professionals. U.S. teachers earn only 60 percent of what their college-educated peers make, the largest such gap in any industrialized country. The gap persists even accounting for teachers' somewhat more generous benefits.

But to quibble over how much teachers make compared to others with a college degree misses a broader point about how we value teaching as a profession. In some states up to one in five teachers must take a second job to pay their bills. Teachers who are breadwinners are often eligible for means-tested programs designed for low-income families. Nevertheless, due to chronic underfunding of schools, the average teacher dips into her own pocket to buy $500 worth of classroom supplies each year. Is this how we should treat those who work each day to mold inquisitive minds and engaged future citizens?

It is extremely difficult and time-consuming to excel at teaching. Teachers who work a six-hour shift at the local IHOP the night before probably don't have time to carefully plan out how to deliver their lessons to maximize student learning and engagement. The most glaring warning sign that the profession is in trouble may be the nearly 40 percent decline in enrollment in teacher-preparation programs over the past decade. Teaching is difficult work but doesn't come with the pay, status or perks of other hard jobs that talented young people might consider, and they are choosing other professions. Unless we begin the difficult work of matching up the necessarily high expectations with higher pay and better working conditions, we will continue to see a precipitous decline in interest in teaching.


Andrew G. Biggs
Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute. Written for CQ Researcher, August 2018

Polls show most Americans think school teachers are underpaid. But those same polls show that Americans have little idea what teachers are currently paid, and, in fact, underestimate by nearly a third the current average teacher salary of $58,000. Once Americans are told what teachers actually are paid, the share calling for salary increases drops to only 42 percent.

Teacher pay is a serious topic, both because of the importance of quality teachers and because of the vast amounts of money needed to substantially increase salaries for the more than 3 million teachers nationwide. But often teacher pay is not treated very seriously in public policy debates.

For instance, do we know that most teachers would make more money in other jobs? Most studies examining the salaries of people switching into or out of teaching do not support that notion. Are there teacher shortages? Sure, in some specialized teaching areas. Is teacher pay truly falling behind private-sector jobs? Not over the past several decades, during which time teacher salaries rose at the same rate as those of other jobs, and teacher benefits — in particular pensions — rose even faster. Likewise, would raising salaries attract better teachers? Maybe, but it's not clear why we should spend hundreds of millions of dollars on higher salaries for current teachers if what we want is to hire better new teachers.

All of these facts point toward the need for more targeted teacher-pay policies. To address shortages in specialized areas, we should raise pay for those positions — as any business would when it has trouble filling a certain position. Likewise, if we wish to hire better new teachers, raise pay for new hires, while weeding out poorly performing teachers. If starting pay for teachers is too low, look at lowering the cost of teacher pensions — which on average are far more generous than those received by private-sector employees — and use the savings to boost salaries for young teachers.

All of these solutions require a more nuanced view of teacher pay than we're likely to hear in the news media, much less from the teacher unions. It does not devalue teachers to acknowledge that a nearly $60,000 average annual salary, plus generous benefits, for less than a full year of work is not living in poverty. But to pay teachers as the professionals they are demands more than blanket claims and one-size-fits-all solutions.

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1840s–1890Demand for publicly supported education grows as the nation expands.
1840sHorace Mann, secretary of education in Massachusetts, argues for a system of free, tax-funded common schools.
1855Massachusetts becomes the first state to abolish school segregation.
1857The National Education Association teachers union is founded.
1860By this point, states in the Northeast and the Midwest require that local property taxes support free public schools.
1865Civil War ends; freed slaves and Western settlers demand access to public education.
1890Public school enrollment, mostly for younger children, has risen by two-thirds in past two decades. But only 6.7 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds are enrolled in high school.
1920–1990Public school enrollment rises sharply, and the federal role in education expands.
1920Thirty-eight percent of 14- to 17-year-olds are enrolled in high school.
1935–36Cities and counties provide 70 percent, states 29 percent and the federal government less than 1 percent of spending on public schools.
1954U.S. Supreme Court bans state-sponsored segregated public schools in Brown v. Board of Education.
1958National Defense Education Act supports the instruction of science, mathematics and foreign languages in elementary and secondary schools in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik satellite.
1964Civil Rights Act bans employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin and prohibits segregation in public places, including schools.
1965Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a cornerstone of President Lyndon B. Johnson's so-called war on poverty, directs federal funds to schools with low-income students.
1974Federal Judge Arthur Garrity orders busing of African-American students to predominantly white schools to desegregate Boston public schools; white parents protest, particularly in South Boston.
1983“A Nation at Risk,” a report commissioned by President Ronald Reagan, lambasts the state of U.S. public education.
1990Milwaukee's Parental Choice Program, the nation's first modern private-school choice program, offers private-school vouchers to low-income Milwaukee students.
2002-PresentCongress first tightens and then loosens school accountability measures; major recession leads to significant cuts in school spending.
2002ESEA reauthorization, called No Child Left Behind, mandates annual standardized testing of fourth-through eighth-graders and once for high school students, with penalties for schools that do not meet progress goals.
2007Recession begins in December and lasts until summer 2009, forcing states to cut education funding and lay off teachers; meanwhile, at least seven states cut state income taxes and slash school spending over the next few years.
2015ESEA reauthorization, known as Every Student Succeeds Act, gives states greater flexibility in administering standardized tests and loosens penalties for failing schools.
2016President-elect Donald Trump nominates billionaire businesswoman and school-choice supporter Betsy DeVos as secretary of Education, infuriating teachers unions, which oppose school choice.
2018West Virginia teachers walk off the job, demanding raises and increased education spending (Feb.); walkouts spread to five other states, ending with a rally in North Carolina (May)…. Supreme Court rules in Janus v. AFSCME that public-sector unions can no longer collect fees from nonmembers in the 23 states allowing such fees (June), and teachers unions budget for a resulting membership loss.

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Short Features

The ruling could encourage union members to drop out.

As the school year approaches, union leaders are hoping to strengthen their membership ranks by harnessing the teacher unrest that erupted earlier this year, when educators staged rallies in six states to demand higher wages and increased education spending. But a June Supreme Court ruling dealt a serious blow to public-sector unions' ability to recruit and retain members, many labor experts say.

The court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that public-sector unions, including those representing teachers, can no longer require employees who decline to join a union to pay so-called agency, or fair-share, fees.1 The fees, which typically are a third less than regular union dues, help pay for collective bargaining that benefits all employees, including nonmembers, covered by a union contract.

Unlike union dues, the fees are not allowed to be used for a union's political activities, such as backing candidates for elected office. But the court ruled 5-4 that a union's act of bargaining with government employers is inherently political and that requiring the fees violates the First Amendment right of free speech.

Mark Janus, a retired nonunion state worker (Getty Images/Chicago Tribune/John J. Kim)  
Mark Janus, a retired nonunion state worker in Illinois, won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that says public-sector unions cannot require nonunion workers to pay “fair-share” fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining and other services unions perform for all workers. The ruling sent a chill through teachers unions, which could see steep declines in membership. (Getty Images/Chicago Tribune/John J. Kim)

The unions' real concern is not the direct loss of agency fees — they account for less than 2 percent of revenues of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union — but that the ruling could make nonmembership more appealing.2 In the 23 states that allow unions to collect agency fees — 27 states already ban them — teachers now will be able to choose to pay full dues for membership or pay nothing and remain covered by a bargaining contract as a nonmember.3 If teachers decide to pay nothing and leave their union, or never join one, unions' membership, revenues and political clout could decline, many analysts say.

But the magnitude of the impact is up for debate. “Initially we may see some losses,” says Jim Testerman, senior director of the Center for Organizing at the NEA. The union is budgeting for a 10–15 percent loss in membership over a two-year period.

Others predict much higher losses. Nat Malkus, deputy director of education policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington, predicts that teachers union membership could decline nearly 40 percent over the next four years. “That's a very ballpark figure, because it depends on how unions and politicians react,” he says.

The NEA and the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second-largest teachers union, sprang into action in 2016, after the Supreme Court deadlocked on a similar case following the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Union officials figured the issue eventually would end up before the full court with a likely conservative replacement for Scalia.

“The No. 1 thing we've been doing is training our leaders to have one-on-one conversations with their members to develop relationships so that members understand that their union is their path to a successful career,” Testerman says. “We've also been training members to run for political office.”

But the unions are facing a coordinated anti-union campaign from conservative, free-market and libertarian groups. Their outreach tactics to encourage teachers to leave their unions include “paper mail, phone calls, emails, hotlines, Facebook ads, billboards, TV advertising and even door-to-door canvassing,” according to NPR.4

“We know there are tens of thousands of educators who chafe under the left-leaning leadership of these unions,” said Jami Lund, a senior policy analyst for the Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank in Washington state that is focusing its efforts on teachers there and in Oregon and California. “Making sure they know they now have an option will certainly have its effect.”5

The day the Janus decision was handed down, the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Mich., set up a website, My Pay My Say, to encourage public employees “to opt out of your public sector union.” The family foundation of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a top donor to the center, although she resigned from the foundation's board after joining the Trump administration.6

To examine the potential longer-term impact on union membership, two academic researchers studied what happened after Wisconsin and Michigan passed right-to-work laws, which prohibit unions from collecting agency fees. According to their modeling, the Wisconsin NEA affiliate lost 52 percent of its members in the five years after the state's new rules went into effect compared to stable membership trends in states that allowed the collection of agency fees; the Michigan affiliate lost 21 percent in three years.7

However, teachers unions in the two states lost a lot more than just the ability to charge agency fees. In Michigan, they also lost the ability to automatically deduct union dues from members. Unions “had to go to each member and sign them up and get credit card numbers,” says Bradley Marianno, the study's co-author and an assistant professor of educational policy and leadership at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “It was a big logistical challenge.” In Wisconsin, they also lost many of their collective bargaining rights.

Thus, says Marianno, much depends on how state legislatures react to the Supreme Court's ruling and how effectively teachers unions organize.

Lindsey M. Burke, director of the Center for Education Policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, which supports so-called school choice measures such as charter schools and public vouchers for students to attend private schools, hopes the ruling will weaken unions. “The unions have long pushed back against any sort of school choice efforts, even charter schools,” said Burke. “Unions are going to have fewer dollars to push back against long-overdue education reforms.”8

But Marianno says unions may do what they did in Wisconsin after the state changed its laws and union membership and revenues dropped. The NEA affiliate cut back on members' benefits and other expenditures but kept “enough money in their political war chest to advocate for policies at the state level,” he says.

— Barbara Mantel

[1] Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al., U.S. Supreme Court,

[2] “2018–2020 Strategic Plan and Budget,” National Education Association, June 2018, p. 7,

[3] Lisa Guerin, “Right to Work, Union Shops, and Union Dues,” Nolo,; Jeff Stein, “Missouri voters defeat GOP-backed ‘right to work’ law, in victory for unions, Associated Press projects,” The Washington Post, Aug. 7, 2018,

[4] Anya Kamenetz, “Behind The Campaign To Get Teachers To Leave Their Unions,” NPR, July 19, 2018,

[5] Ibid.

[6] “Maine: Opt Out of Your Public Sector Union,” My Pay My Say,; Kamenetz, op. cit.

[7] Bradley D. Marianno and Katharine Strunk, “After Janus: A new era of teachers union activism,” Education Next, Fall 2018,

[8] Anya Kamenetz, “Is This Supreme Court Decision the End of Teachers Unions? NPR, June 27, 2018,

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Trump administration's visa restrictions make recruiting tougher.

This June, the Baltimore school district had to say goodbye, perhaps temporarily, to 25 foreign-born teachers, most of them from the Philippines and many of whom had been teaching in the area for a decade or more.9

Their H-1B temporary work visas — designed for highly skilled foreign workers and a frequent target of criticism by President Trump — had expired, and the district's requests to renew the visas have been delayed. Consequently, the teachers have had to uproot their lives and move back to their home countries to await the federal government's decisions.

The renewal process has never taken so long in the 10 years the school district has been recruiting teachers from abroad under the H-1B program, says Jeremy Grant-Skinner, the district's chief human capital officer. “It feels like an almost purposeful slowdown,” he says.

Rogie Legaspi, a teacher from the Philippines (Getty Images/The Washington Post/Ricky Carioti)  
Rogie Legaspi, a teacher from the Philippines, talks to a sixth-grader at Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy in Baltimore. Legaspi is one of thousands of international teachers who were recruited for hard-to-fill positions under two temporary visa programs. The United States faces a shortage of 100,000 teachers. (Getty Images/The Washington Post/Ricky Carioti)

Likewise, Anna Joy Mariano, a special-needs teacher in Salinas City, Calif., and also from the Philippines, has concerns about her visa status. She has a J-1 visa, also used to recruit international teachers but issued under a less politically fraught cultural exchange program than the H-1B program. Nevertheless, with President Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric and his administration's crackdown on temporary visa programs, Mariano said, “you're worried every time you turn the news on.”10

International teachers across the country are dealing with uncertainty over their visa status, just as some school districts facing shortages of qualified teachers are starting to return to a practice common before the 2007–09 recession: recruiting teachers from abroad for difficult-to-fill positions.

Teacher recruiters generally rely on the H-1B and J-1 visa programs. But federal agencies have stepped up oversight of the H-1B program after Trump repeatedly complained it was being used to replace U.S. workers with lower-paid foreigners, particularly in the high-tech field. Shortly after his inauguration, Trump ordered a review of the program, and last year unveiled his Buy American, Hire American program, which ordered federal agencies to restrict issuance of H-1B visas. Since then, there has been an uptick in denials, challenges and requests for more information from new H-1B applicants and those seeking visa extensions.11

Foreign teacher recruitment declined during and after the recession, when school districts slashed budgets and laid off educators. Now the country faces a shortage of 100,000 teachers, according to the Learning Policy Institute, a nonpartisan education research institution in Palo Alto, Calif. The institute said the shortage — most acute in math, science, special education and bilingual education — is due largely to high attrition rates, low teacher pay and declining post-recession enrollment in teacher-education programs.12

“Within Maryland, and nationally, for many years now, it has been difficult to find qualified teachers,” says Grant-Skinner. But Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second-largest teachers union, said that rather than increase teacher salaries to solve the teacher shortage, schools districts “may once again resort to recruiting internationally.”13

However, recent recruitment of teachers from abroad has yet to reach the high levels of the early 2000s. Before the recession, school districts were recruiting more than 10,000 teachers a year under the H-1B program, mostly for science, math and special education courses. The total fell drastically after the recession, with schools filing only 2,719 petitions for H-1Bs in 2011. The number inched up to 2,738 last year.14

Lately, school administrators appear to be more inclined to use J-1 visas than H-1Bs. Only about 3,000 teachers received J-1 visas annually before the recession, which then fell by nearly half. But by last year the total had reached prerecession levels — 2,876 — and surpassed current H-1B applications. North Carolina schools recruited the most J-1 teachers (480), followed by South Carolina (346) and California (294), according to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the federal agency that oversees the program.15

H-1Bs have lost favor with school districts not only because of the administration's increasingly strict oversight but also because of stiff competition from technology companies, which typically receive most of the 85,000 new H-1B visas granted each year. In addition, the J-1 program has much less government oversight than H-1Bs.16

“The political environment has been a little challenging over the last year and a half,” said Bart Muller, the managing director of employee and labor relations for the Denver public school system, where 20 bilingual education teachers hold H-1Bs and about three hold J-1s. But in the future, he said, the Denver district may expand its use of J-1s. “The bottom line is there are a lot more hoops to jump through with H-1B, while J-1 is fairly simple. You can do it expeditiously.”17

— Natalia Gurevich

[9] Talia Richman, “Baltimore recruited a group of foreign teachers years ago. Now, their visas are set to expire.” The Baltimore Sun, June 13, 2018,

[10] Rachel Olding, “The immigrant teachers coming to US schools under Trump's nose,” The Sydney Morning Herald, March 10, 2018,

[11] Stef W. Knight, “Trump's ‘Hire American’ order makes it harder to get H-1B visas,” Axios, July 25, 2018,

[12] Olding, op. cit.

[13] Dana Goldstein, “Teacher Pay Is So Low in Some U.S. School Districts That They're Recruiting Overseas,” The New York Times, May 2, 2018,

[14] Data received from Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

[15] “Facts and Figures,” J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs,

[16] U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data.

[17] Goldstein, op. cit.

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Mondale, Sarah, and Sarah B. Patton, eds., School: The Story of American Public Education , Beacon Press, 2001. Education historians chronicle the development of U.S. public schools in a companion book to a PBS special.

Neem, Johann N. , Democracy's Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America , Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017. A historian explains how the country's public school system was built between the Revolution and the Civil War.

Reese, William J. , America's Public Schools: From the Common School to “No Child Left Behind,” John Hopkins University Press, 2011. A professor of history and educational policy studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison examines the trends that shaped U.S. public schools over 200 years.


Burnette II, Daarel , “Teachers to flex labor muscle as midterm elections approach,” Education Week, May 11, 2018, Teachers are running for public office and volunteering for candidates who support their demands for higher pay and greater education spending.

Dee, Thomas, and James Wyckoff , “A Lasting IMPACT: High-stakes teacher evaluations drive student success in Washington, D.C.,” Education Next, Fall 2017, p. 66, Linking teacher compensation to performance improved the mix of teachers in Washington, D.C., schools and raised student achievement, according to two academic researchers.

Green, Erica L. , “Teachers Unions Scramble to Save Themselves After Supreme Court's Blow,” The New York Times, July 14, 2018, Unions reached out to teachers to join up after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling made it financially appealing for public-sector workers to drop out or avoid joining unions.

Strauss, Valerie , “New polls find most Americans say teachers are underpaid — and many would pay higher taxes to fix it,” The Washington Post, June 1, 2018, A majority of U.S. adults say teachers are underpaid and half support tax increases to pay them more, according to national survey.

Turner, Cory, Eric Weddle and Peter Balonon-Rosen , “The Promise and Peril of School Vouchers,” NPR, May 12, 2017, Indiana's private school voucher program, the nation's largest, diverts taxpayer money to church schools, according to an NPR investigation.

Yan, Holly , “Here's what teachers accomplished with their protests this year,” CNN, May 29, 2018, Teacher walkouts in six states accomplished some, but not all, of their goals, according to the news channel.

Reports & Studies

“Rankings of the States 2017 and Estimates of School Statistics 2018,” National Education Association, April 2018, p. 49, The nation's largest teachers union ranks states on the extent of the resources they devote to public education.

Baker, Bruce D., Danielle Farrie and David Sciarra , “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card,” Education Law Center and Rutgers Graduate School of Education, February 2018, Only two states, New Jersey and Wyoming, are positioned relatively well on all measures of school spending fairness. California, Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee perform poorly on fairness measures.

Dynarski, Mark , et al., “Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts Two Years After Students Applied,” National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, U.S. Department of Education, May 2018, Students in Washington, D.C.'s private-school voucher program have lower math and reading scores than comparable students in public schools, according to federal government researchers.

Jackson, C. Kirabo, Rucker C. Johnson and Claudia Persico , “The Effects of School Spending on Educational and Economic Outcomes: Evidence from School Finance Reforms,” National Bureau of Economic Research, January 2015, Sustained increases in per-pupil spending leads to more time spent in school, higher wages and reduced poverty rates, according to a private economic-research organization].

Mills, Jonathan N., and Patrick J. Wolf , “How Has the Louisiana Scholarship Program Affected Students?” Education Research Alliance for New Orleans Policy Brief, June 26, 2017, Louisiana private-school voucher students do worse in math tests than comparable students in public schools but catch up over time, according to a research group that studies post-Hurricane Katrina school reforms in New Orleans.

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The Next Step

Performance Pay

“Pay Teachers What They're Worth,” Bloomberg, April 2, 2018, Instead of just increasing salaries across the board, school districts should take student performance into account when determining teacher pay raises, argues Bloomberg's editorial board.

Federoff, Stacey , “Teachers' union approves contracts with raises,” Pittsburgh Business Times, April 12, 2018, The Pittsburgh school district ended its performance-based pay system, instead granting all teachers a 2 percent raise, and a 15 percent starting wage hike for new educators.

Hoppough, Tomas , “Denver Public Schools, union reach agreement on compensation extension,” Denver ABC7, March 15, 2018, Performance-based pay for Denver public school teachers will remain in effect through Jan. 18, 2019, following negotiations between the school district and the teachers union.

State Funding

Clark, Adam , “N.J.'s school funding fight ends in ‘big win’ for kids — but it won't come cheap,”, July 24, 2018, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed a bill that will increase state spending on public schools, with a goal to have all underfinanced schools fully funded by 2025.

Mathews, Joe , “Mathews: The California School Squeeze threatens education,” Mercury News, Aug. 17, 2018, Major state tax reform would free up generous funding for California public schools, says a Mercury News opinion writer.

Nott, Robert , “Judge rules against state in landmark education-funding lawsuit,” Santa Fe New Mexican, July 20, 2018, A state District judge ruled that New Mexico is providing insufficient funding for public schools.

Teacher Protests

Gillers, Heather, and Michelle Hackman , “The New Test for Cash-Strapped U.S. States: Teacher Protests,” The Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2018, Many states that had put education funding on the back burner after the 2007–09 recession have seen massive walkouts and protests this year.

Milgrom-Elcott, Talia , “It's Not All About The Money: To Understand Teacher Protests, Look Beyond Low Pay,” Forbes, Aug. 7, 2018, Besides low pay, school culture can harm retention rates for public school teachers, according to the founder of a support network for science, technology and math educators.

Turner, Cory, Clare Lombardo and Erin B. Logan , “Teacher Walkouts: A State By State Guide,” NPR, April 25, 2018, Five states — Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia — were home to the biggest teacher walkouts and protests this year.


“Survey finds support for charter schools, private school vouchers up over past year,” CBS News, Aug. 21, 2018, Support for private school vouchers for low-income families has increased 5 percent over the past year.

Black, Derek W. , “Don't divert taxpayer money to vouchers. It does much more good at public schools,” USA Today, Aug. 16, 2018, The myth that private school students outperform public school children has driven the recent wave of support for voucher systems, says a University of South Carolina law professor.

McShane, Mike , “How To Avoid Whiplash With The New Indiana School Voucher Study,” Forbes, Aug. 14, 2018, A study of Indiana's voucher system shows that students using public vouchers to attend private schools are underperforming significantly in math.

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American Federation of Teachers
555 New Jersey Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20001
Nation's second-largest teachers union, representing 1.7 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide.

Center for American Progress
1333 H St., N.W., 10th Floor, Washington, DC, 20005
Liberal public policy research and advocacy organization that examines education policy, among its many focus areas.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
820 First St., N.E., Suite 510, Washington, DC 20002
Liberal research and policy institute focused on reducing poverty and inequality, including in education.

111 Monument Circle, Suite 2650, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Advocacy organization promoting school choice for all children nationwide.

Hoover Institution
434 Galvez Mall, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305
Conservative public policy think tank and research institution that studies public education among other policy areas.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy
140 W. Main St., Midland, Michigan 48640
Conservative Michigan-centric think tank that promotes free-market policies on public education and other issues.

National Bureau of Economic Research
1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
Nonpartisan organization that conducts and disseminates economic research on a variety of issues, including education.

National Education Association
1201 16th St., N.W., Washington, DC 20036
Nation's largest teachers union, representing 3 million members in affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.

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[1] “Arizona Educators Walk Out In Largest Teacher Strike In State History,” KJZZ News, April 26, 2018,; Ricardo Cano, “Arizona educators will walk out April 26,” The Republic, April 20, 2018,; “Rankings of the States 2017 and Estimates of School Statistics 2018,” National Education Association, April 2018, p. 49,

[2] Dustin Gardiner, “4,000 protesters return to Arizona's Capitol for second day of teacher walkout,” The Republic, April 27, 2018,

[3] David Bier, “Arizona's Teacher Strikes: The End or Just the Beginning?” Dome, Boston University School of Law, July 19, 2018,

[4] “Rankings of the States 2017 and Estimates of School Statistics 2018,” op. cit.; Holly Yan, “Here's what teachers accomplished with their protests this year,” CNN, May 29, 2018, West Virginia teachers objected to rising health insurance costs, and teachers in Kentucky were worried about the solvency of the state pension system.

[5] “Rankings of the States 2017 and Estimates of School Statistics 2018,” op. cit.

[6] Average weekly earnings, all employees, in 1982–1984 dollars, total private, seasonally adjusted (CES0500000012), Bureau of Labor Statistics,

[7] “Rankings of the States 2017 and Estimates of School Statistics 2018,” op. cit.

[8] Chad Aldeman and Kelly Robson, “Why Most Teachers Get a Bad Deal on Pensions,” Education Next, May 16, 2017,

[9] Michael Leachman, “New Census Data Show Persistent State School Funding Cuts,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, May 22, 2018,

[10] Mike Maciag, “The States That Spend the Most (and the Least) on Education,” Governing, August 2016,

[11] Michael Leachman, Kathleen Masterson and Eric Figueroa, “A Punishing Decade for School Funding,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Nov. 29, 2017, p. 8,; 2018 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, National Conference of State Legislatures, July 10, 2018,

[12] Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al., U.S. Supreme Court (2018),

[13] Lou Ann Linehan, “Nebraska education spending outpaces that of neighboring states,” The Grand Island Independent, June 25, 2018,

[14] Mary Sell, “Republicans: Where gubernatorial candidates stand on issues,” TimesDaily (Florence, Ala.), June 3, 2018,

[15] Bryan Lowry, “Gov. Sam Brownback cuts funding for schools and higher education,” The Wichita Eagle, Feb. 6, 2015,

[16] Julien Lafortune, Jesse Rothstein and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, “School Finance Reform and the Distribution of Student Achievement,” Washington Center for Equitable Growth, March 2016, p. 4,

[17] C. Kirabo Jackson, Rucker C. Johnson and Claudia Persico, “Money Does Matter After All,” Education Next, July 17, 2015,

[18] Eric A. Hanushek, “Does Money Matter After All?” Education Next, July 17, 2015,

[19] Jackson et al., op. cit.

[20] Valerie Strauss, “New polls find most Americans say teachers are underpaid — and many would pay higher taxes to fix it,” The Washington Post, June 1, 2018, Also see Chris Jackson and Mallory Newall, “Most Americans believe teachers have the right to strike,” Ipsos, NPR, April 26, 2018,

[21] Jacob Vigdor, “Scrap the Sacrosanct Salary Schedule,” Education Next, Fall 2008, p. 38,

[22] “Lessons Learned About Implementing Performance-Based Pay,” U.S. Dept. of Education,; “Databurst: Strategic Teacher Compensation,” National Council on Teacher Quality, May 2018,

[23] “Impact Evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund,” U.S. Department of Education,

[24] Madeline Will, “‘An Expensive Experiment’: Gates Teacher-Effectiveness Program Shows No Gains for Students,” Education Week, June 21, 2018,

[25] Thomas Dee and James Wyckoff, “A Lasting IMPACT: High-stakes teacher evaluations drive student success in Washington, D.C.” Education Next, Fall 2017, p. 66,

[26] Emma Brown, “Trump picks billionaire Betsy DeVos, school voucher advocate, as education secretary,” The Washington Post, Nov. 23, 2016,

[27] Eskelsen García, “NEA President reacts to Betsy DeVos nomination for Education Secretary,” National Education Association, Nov. 23, 2016,

[28] “Fast Facts on School Choice,” EdChoice, last modified April 24, 2018,

[29] Cory Turner, Eric Weddle and Peter Balonon-Rosen, “The Promise and Peril of School Vouchers,” NPR, May 12, 2017,

[30] Benjamin Scafidi, “The Fiscal Effects of School Choice Programs on Public School Districts,” March 2012, p. 1,

[31] Mark Dynarski et al., “Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts Two Years After Students Applied,” Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, May 2018, p. xiii,

[32] Jonathan N. Mills and Patrick J Wolf, “How Has the Louisiana Scholarship Program Affected Students?” Education Research Alliance for New Orleans Policy Brief, June 26, 2017, p. 4,

[33] Alexandra Tilsley, “So, do private school vouchers work?” Urban Institute, June 29, 2017,

[34] David Figlio and Krzysztof Karbownik, “Evaluation of Ohio's EdChoice Scholarship Program: Selection, Competition, and Performance Effects,” Thomas B. Fordham institute, July 2016, p. 34,

[35] BLS History, Boston Latin School,

[36] Maria Sacchetti, “Schools vie for honor of being the oldest,” The Boston Globe, Nov. 27, 2005,

[37] Johann N. Neem, Democracy's Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America (2017), p. 7.

[38] Sarah Mondale and Sarah B. Patton, eds., School: The Story of American Public Education (2001), p. 12.

[39] Neem, op. cit., p. 8.

[40] Ibid., p. 63.

[41] Ibid., pp. 63–64.

[42] Ibid., pp. 66–67.

[43] Ibid., pp. 27–28.

[44] Mondale and Patton, op, cit., pp. 25–28.

[45] Ibid., pp. 15–16.

[46] Ibid.; Our History, National Education Association,

[47] “Literacy as Freedom,” Smithsonian American Art Museum,

[48] Mondale and Patton, op. cit., pp. 38, 41.

[49] Derek W. Black, “The constitutional right to education is long overdue,” The Conversation, Dec. 4, 2017,

[50] Mondale and Patton, op. cit., pp. 46, 58.

[51] Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954),

[52] William J. Reese, America's Public Schools: From the Common School to “No Child Left Behind (Kindle Edition), p. 182; Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, “Human Capital and Social Capital: The Rise of Secondary Schooling in America, 1910–1940,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Spring 1999, p. 685,

[53] Reese, op. cit., p. 211.

[54] “120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait,” National Center for Education Statistics, January 1993, p. 31,

[55] Ibid.; “The Federal Role in Education,” U.S. Department of Education, May 25, 2017,

[56] “The Federal Role in Education.”

[57] “Civil Rights Act of 1964,”,

[58] Catherine A. Paul, “Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965,” Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries: Social Welfare History Project, 2016,

[59] Michael Hansen et al., “Have we made progress on achievement gaps? Looking at evidence from the new NAEP results,” Brookings Institution, April 17, 2018,

[60] Thomas H. Jones, “State Lotteries and the Financing of Public Education,” The Center for Public Justice,

[61] “Keeping State Lottery Revenue Alive,” Legis Brief, National Conference of State Legislatures, September 2017,

[62] Michael Pope, “Supplanting or Shell Game: The Fight Over Lottery Money and Education Funding, Virginia Public Radio, Feb. 19, 2018,; John Myers, “Lottery won't be a big win for California schools; never has, never will,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 13, 2016,

[63] “A Nation at Risk,” U.S. Department of Education, April 1983,

[64] “The Every Student Succeeds Act: What You Need to Know,” American Board, Dec. 11, 2015,

[65] Ibid.

[66] NCSL State Vote, National Conference of State Legislatures, April 19, 2018,; United States Congress elections, Ballotpedia, 2018,

[67] Ibid.

[68] Daarel Burnette II, “Teacher Activists Take Fight to the Polls: Teachers to flex labor muscle as midterm elections approach,” Education Week, May 11, 2018,

[69] Dana Goldstein and Alexander Burns, “Teacher Walkouts Threaten Republican Grip on Conservative States,” The New York Times, April 12, 2018,

[70] Dave Mistich, “School's Out and Teachers Run for Office Over Summer Break,” NPR, July 2, 2018,; Moriah Balingit, “From the classroom to the campaign trail: Emboldened teachers run for office,” The Washington Post, June 2, 2018,

[71] Ricardo Cano, “Invest in Education income-tax measure knocked off November ballot by courts,” The Arizona Republic, Aug. 29, 2018,

[72] Mariana Dale, Steve Goldstein and Lauren Gilger, “Arizona Invest In Education Turns In Hundreds Of Thousands Of Signatures,” Fronteras, July 6, 2018,; Melissa Daniels, “Judge rejects challenge to Invest in Education Act, The Associated Press, Aug. 16, 2018,

[73] Tonya Moreno, “A List of State Income Tax Rates,” The Balance, Aug. 2, 2018,

[74] “What is the Invest in Education Act?” INVESTinED,

[75] Cano, op. cit.

[76] Jeff Stein, “At state level, GOP renews push to require ‘supermajorities’ for tax hikes, imperiling progressive agenda,” The Washington Post, July 9, 2018,

[77] Samantha Waxman, “Florida's Supermajority Proposal Would Deepen K-12 Funding Crisis,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, June 20, 2018,

[78] Black, op. cit.

[79] Cortney Sanders, “Many States Facing Suits Over K-12 Funding,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, April 26, 2018,

[80] Jonathan Shorman, “After School Funding Ruling, Kansas Conservatives Renew Push to Limit Supreme Court's Reach,” Tribune News Service, June 27, 2018,

[81] Dan Mckay And Shelby Perea, “New Mexico loses education lawsuit,” Albuquerque Journal, July 20, 2018,; Wendy Lecker, “New Mexico School Funding Found Unconstitutional,” Education Law Center, July 24, 2018,

[82] Bruce D. Baker, Danielle Farrie and David Sciarra, “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card,” Education Law Center and Rutgers Graduate School of Education, February 2018, pp. iii, 21–22,

[83] NCSL State Vote, op. cit.

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About the Author

Barbara Mantel, author of this week's edition of CQ Researcher  

Barbara Mantel, is a freelance writer in New York City. She has been a Kiplinger Fellow and has won several journalism awards, including the National Press Club's Best Consumer Journalism Award and the Front Page Award. She was a correspondent for NPR and the founding senior editor and producer for public radio's “Science Friday.” She holds a B.A. in history and economics from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in economics from Northwestern University.

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Document APA Citation
Mantel, B. (2018, August 31). Education funding. CQ researcher, 28, 705-728. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqresrre2018083100
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ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Education and Funding
Aug. 31, 2018  Education Funding
Jun. 27, 2016  Student Debt
Dec. 06, 2013  Humanities Education
Apr. 19, 2013  Law Schools
Nov. 20, 2009  The Value of a College Education
Dec. 10, 1999  Reforming School Funding
Aug. 27, 1993  School Funding
Dec. 24, 1948  Federal Aid to Education
May 05, 1948  Financial Support for Higher Education
Sep. 03, 1937  Federal Grants for Education
Aug. 20, 1934  Federal Aid to Education
Campaigns and Elections
Cost of Education and School Funding
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Education Policy
Elementary and Secondary Education
Employee Benefits
Labor Standards and Practices
Party Politics
Private Schools and Home Schooling
Protest Movements
State and Local Taxes
Supreme Court History and Decisions
Unions and Labor-Management Relations
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