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April 4, 2024

Public Schools Are Fully Funded Already

What’s missing is transparency and accountability in how school districts use the funds they are given.

Teachers unions and politicians frequently say that public schools need to be “fully funded.” Some politicians even run on the campaign promise of working hard to fully fund schools. Truthfully, no one knows what that means, and a price tag is never given when asked how much it will take to fully fund schools.

In 2020 and 2021, the federal government provided about $190.5 billion toward the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) to allegedly make schools better and safer during the pandemic. One must wonder: How were the ESSER funds spent nationwide?

Many schools used their ESSER funds to hire more administrators and learning specialists, as well as create or expand tutoring and social and emotional learning programs.

Why does this matter? ESSER funds are not recurring funds from the federal government. They have an expiration date. This means that school districts nationwide spent the funds on recurring initiatives and salaries, knowing they have an expiration date. This results in school districts needing to either cut or fit their new recurring expenses into an already inflated budget.

This raises another question: What budgets do school districts already have?

The Baltimore school district’s budget for 2025 has been approved for $2.58 billion. This is the same district where zero students at 13 high schools tested proficient on state math exams, as Fox 5 News reported.

In 2023, Nashville’s school district had a budget of $1.2 billion, according to News Channel 5. In that same year, only 34% of students tested proficient in math, and 36% of students tested proficient in English Language Arts assessments.

Aside from a school district’s regular budget, many districts also have foundations, whereby they take monetary donations to get more funding for their schools. School districts also often apply for grants, which give them even more money to fund their schools.

As ESSER funds for school districts expire, teachers unions and politicians are about to cry out that we must “fully fund” schools.

I would argue that schools are fully funded and have been for quite some time. What has been missing is transparency and accountability in how school districts use the funds they are given.

School districts spend millions on contracts with social and emotional learning providers while students continue to graduate with low proficiency in reading and math. Central offices are bloated with unnecessary administrative positions that do not produce positive results.

Memphis public schools recently announced their new superintendent’s salary starts at $325,000. This is the same school district where only 22% of students can read and write proficiently, and only 13% of students can do math proficiently.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a Chief Equity Officer is $151,203. Most school districts employ a Chief Equity Officer.

Parents and community members have the power to hold their local school district accountable for how funds are spent. Reading school budgets can be confusing and boring, but it must be done when school districts continue to ask for more money each year.

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