Per-Pupil Expenditures in Ohio’s Largest School Districts

Policy Brief

January 30, 2020

The analysis was based on new per-pupil spending figures required under the
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

In the latest of a series of briefs analyzing within-district, per-pupil spending reports required by federal law, in Ohio, random variability in funding of schools with similar demographics and under-funding of middle schools are the two biggest takeaways of a new issue brief released today by Education Reform Now. 

Ohio schools with the highest concentration of students in poverty receive similar funds per student, on average, as schools with the lowest concentrations of students in poverty of 10 of the state’s largest districts, 

The analysis is based on per-pupil figures that all states must report for the first time under a new federal requirement in the Every Student Succeeds Act. Previously, states only had to report district-level spending, which masked inequities at the school level. 

In all but two districts, schools with the highest concentrations of students in poverty spend within 1.6% of schools with the lowest concentrations of poor students, despite evidence that students in poverty require additional resources to achieve at levels similar to their more affluent peers. 

More positively, in all of Ohio’s ten largest districts, schools with larger concentrations of nonwhite students receive more per-pupil than schools with smaller concentrations of nonwhite students.

Yet, the report finds significant variation in spending, particularly among schools with the highest concentrations of poor and nonwhite students, suggesting a potential lack of intentionality on the part of districts around funding based on race and poverty. 

Rather than race/ethnicity or poverty, grade level is the clearest factor in determining school-level funding, with elementary schools receiving the most funding and middle schools receiving the least. These differences may be the result of state policies that provide separate funding streams to students in grades K-3 as well as students enrolled in CTE courses, most of which are offered at high schools.

Ohio’s school report cards show spending in broad categories—such as instruction and pupil support—rather than more specific ones—like salaries and benefits—so it’s difficult to draw any definitive conclusions about what is driving these differences in spending.

These findings were reviewed by the Collaborative for Student Success and the Ohio Department of Education and was shared with district officials in all 10 districts mentioned in the report as part of the vetting process. 

The full report and district-specific findings are available here.