Special Report

America's Richest School Districts

5) Santa Maria Independent School District, Tex.
>Median household income: $17,576
>Pct. households earning $200,000+: 0%

>Pct. households earning less than $10,000: 20.4%
>Expenditure per student: $10,618
>Pct. Local Funding: 6%

In Santa Maria, the city containing the school district, per capita income is an incredibly low $5,794 and median home value is just $36,100. The school district spends $10,618 per student, which is slightly more than the national average. However, only 6% of funding comes from local income sources. Santa Maria’s proficiency levels for the 2011 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exam varied greatly depending on the grade, but the levels were typically below Texas averages on math and reading. Only 4.5% of the district’s adults have obtained bachelor’s degrees.

4) West Bolivar School District, Miss.
>Median household income: $17,107
>Pct. households earning $200,000+: 0.6%
>Pct. households earning less than $10,000: 17.3%
>Expenditure per student: $10,096
>Pct. local funding: 19%

Located in Rosedale, Miss., 59% of families with children under 18 in the West Bolivar School District live below the poverty line — one of the highest rates in the country. Partially due to the area’s extreme poverty, area home values are extremely low at just $48,100. As a result, the school district relies on Mississippi and the federal government to support its school budget. During the 2009-2010 school year, spending on schools exceeded money received from all taxes and other sources in the district. Eighth-grade students scored worse than state averages in all sections of the Mississippi Curriculum Test.

Read: America’s Richest School Districts

3) North Bolivar School District, Miss.
>Median household income: $16,968
>Pct. households earning $200,000+: 2%
>Pct. households earning less than $10,000: 15.8%
>Expenditure per student: $9,773
>Pct. local funding: 16%

The North Bolivar School District is composed of Brooks Elementary School, Shelby Middle School and Broad Street High School, where a total of 716 students are enrolled. The median income of households in Shelby, Miss., where the school district is located, is less than half of the state’s average and less than one-third of the median income of the U.S. The median home value in the district is $57,600. Also, 35.7% of households in the North Bolivar district earn less than $15,000, placing it among the poorest 1% of all school districts in the country in this category. Though the proficiency levels for the Mississippi Curriculum Test vary on each subject and grade, North Bolivar is typically on par or slightly below than the state average.

2) Monticello Independent School District, Ky.
>Median household income: $16,778
>Pct. households earning $200,000+: 0%
>Pct. households earning less than $10,000: 18%
>Expenditure per student: $9,964
>Pct. local funding: 8%

With 18% of households earning less than $10,000 annually, and not a single household earning above $200,000 per year, the Monticello Independent School District is one of the poorest school districts in the U.S. Nearly 40% of Monticello household incomes are below the poverty line, and 43.4% receive food stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. In addition, median home value in Monticello is a meager $61,600, which is less than a third of the nation’s median home value. As a result, residents contribute just 8% to funding the district’s schools, or $892 per student. Only 60% of adults in the district have a high school diploma and 6.3% have a bachelor’s degree. On the Kentucky Core Content Tests, Monticello students were well below state proficiency levels on math and social studies.

1) Barbourville Independent School District, Ky.
>Median household income: $16,607
>Pct. households earning $200,000+: 0%
>Pct. households earning less than $10,000: 6.8%
>Expenditure per student: $8,178
>Pct. local funding: 16%

About one-third of households in the Barbourville Independent School District live well below the poverty line, earning less than $15,000 annually. The median home value in Barbourville is just $80,700, compared to the national average of $188,400. Poverty affects children in the district a great deal; an estimated 282 of the 680 children between 5 and 17 live in households with incomes below the poverty line. Surprisingly, U.S. News gave Barbourville’s high school a ranking on the 2012 Best High Schools list, explaining that Barbourville students received scores on their Kentucky Core Content Tests that were higher than state averages, despite the fact that 62% of the student body is “economically disadvantaged.”

Michael B. Sauter, Ashley C. Allen, Lisa Nelson, Alexander E. M. Hess

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