Struggles Demand Increased State Funding for Education

January 13, 2004

On January 6, school districts representing one-third of Missouri's public school students took the state to court to demand more money for the public schools.

The lawsuit holds that Missouri's school financing system distributes funds inequitably, thus denying students equal opportunities to education. Some districts in the state spend more than $13,000/pupil while others spend as little as $4,800/pupil.

Similar struggles to demand equitable and increased state funding for education are developing all across the country.

In Maryland, a statewide coalition has been building a powerful grassroots movement through a petition campaign, county-wide and city rallies and meetings, etc. The coalition, which is demanding increased funding for the schools, is planning a large statewide rally on January 26 in Annapolis.

In Kansas, a trial court ruled in December that the state's education finance system is unconstitutional because of "its failure to provide equity in funding for all Kansas children." Funding disparities under current law now exceed 300%. Urban schools receive the least per-pupil funding and minority students and students with learning disabilities are especially hard hit. Educators are demanding smaller class sizes, more teachers, preschool, and other educational investments. (see The Worker, September 16, 2003 for reports on ongoing struggles in other states).

The plain truth is that at present the government operates a dual school system with the children of the working class and oppressed minorities condemned to separate and unequal schools. To begin with, the federal government refuses to take up the responsibility to properly fund the public schools, providing only 9% of total monies for elementary and secondary schools. Thus the financial burden falls on the states and local communities. But school districts in poorer communities simply lack sufficient resources. And the state governments, in many cases, use funding formulas which favor richer districts over poorer ones (in other words, communities which need the most, get the least).

Thus, across the country, a major demand of the school reform movement is for an equitable and increased distribution of state funding for education. Reform advocates are demanding that states provide sufficient investments to guarantee a genuinely modern education for every student.