School Leaders Role in School Funding

Among the many responsibilities of a school leader is the ability to oversee school budgets and operations. And in recent years, schools have been given more autonomy when it comes to how they allocate their resources, which can be helpful in directing resources to specific priorities though may at the same time increase inequities between schools. Indeed, schools in low-wealth areas are less likely to be able to supplement money received from the state through parent organizations or other community contributions. Inequities can then be further perpetuated when we are unable to truly monitor the exact resources and revenues brought into schools, which include contributions at the local level, and so can make it difficult to design school funding systems that seek to achieve resource parity (OECD, 2017). In Standard 9 of the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL, 2015)— Operations and Management—effective leaders are ones defined as, among other things, ethical stewards of their schools’ monetary resources. Indeed, school leaders need to and are required to be transparent in their funding decisions.

School leaders also need to possess the capacity and support to make school funding decisions. By engaging in ongoing professional development on school finance, which includes being aware of how school funding is appropriated at the state and local levels, school leaders can be more effective in their decision-making around resources and make better decisions about how to equitably allocate money in their own schools (Leonardo & Grubb, 2014).

We also believe that if school leaders are interested in achieving equity in their schools, access and opportunity to material items (e.g., resources) and nonmaterial items (e.g., equity-minded curriculum, pedagogies, and teachers) must be redistributed (Gorski, 2019). Gorski argues, and we agree, that if we are committed to eradicating the way racism manifests itself in our schools, the interests of students of color must be prioritized in every decision around policy and practice, including the redistribution of access and educational opportunity. A school leader committed to racial equity must consistently advocate for stronger school investments and resources and take direct actions to ensure funding is allocated to reach those students most in need.


Recent teacher strikes across many states have brought to light challenges school districts face around funding. The battle over more equitable school funding is ongoing due in part to the narrow policy focus on simply reforming school funding formulas. Instead policy makers and educational administrators should collaborate to reform multiple, interconnected racially inequitable policies linked to inequities in school funding like housing discrimination, unemployment, and scarcity of commercial investments in communities of color (Rothstein, 2017). When states continue to fund public education in terms of adequacy instead of equity, and do not place access to quality education front and center, our field must be better equipped on all fronts to confront structures and systems that perpetuate educational inequity. We want educational leaders to place the role racism plays in school funding inequalities at the core of policy discussions in order to take action and avert the potential racial inequities school funding policies cause when implemented.

Discussion Questions

  • 1. What factors are included in your state’s school funding formula? How does the formula work to close funding gaps and ensure all students are receiving a high-quality education?
  • 2. What does funding per pupil look like in school districts across your state? How does your district compare to other districts?
  • 3. How has school finance been litigated in your state and what are the outcomes?
  • 4. What does the education clause in your state constitution include? Do you feel the language equitably and/or adequately addresses students’ educational rights? How so?
  • 5. What is your role as a leader in implementing policy and practices around fiscal equity?
  • 6. As a leader, how do you prioritize expenditures in your school? How do you determine what expenditures are effective or futile? How does racial equity play a role in your decision-making?

School Funding Resources

  • • A Quick Glance at School Finance: A 50 State Survey of School Finance Policies:
  • • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
  • • Economic Policy Institute:
  • • EdBuild:
  • • Education Law Center:
  • • The Education Trust:
  • • Equality of Opportunity and Education Project, Stanford University:
  • • Learning Policy Institute:
  • • NPR Series School Money: The Cost of Opportunity: www.npr. org/series/473636949/schoolmoney
  • • SchoolFunding.Info: A Project of the Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College:
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