Richest and Poorest School Districts

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The Poorest School Districts

10. Barbourville Independent School District, Kentucky
> Median household income:
$19,760
> Student enrollment: 715
> State per pupil spending: $9,316
> District per pupil spending: $7,811

Unlike many other states, where state and federal funding programs often help increase school funding in poor areas, the Barbourville Independent School District was both poor and spends very little on its schools. The district spends an average of $7,811 on each of its students per year, nearly $3,000 less than the national annual average spending per student, and $1,505 less than the Kentucky average. On the other hand, Anchorage, one of the state’s wealthiest areas, had one of the highest educational expenditures. While local sources account for about 45% of funding in the average American school district, it accounts for just about 15% of the Barbourville district’s funding. Perhaps this is not surprising given the median annual household income in the district is just $19,760, more than $33,000 below the national median income and one of the lowest nationwide.

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9. Muskegon Heights School District, Michigan
> Median household income:
$19,368
> Student enrollment: 1,514
> State per pupil spending: $10,948
> District per pupil spending: $12,294

Michigan is home to two of the poorest school districts in the country, and Muskegon Heights is one of them. A typical area household earns just $19,368 annually and 46.5% of the district’s residents live in poverty. Lower incomes can be the result of lower education levels. In Muskegon Heights, only 5.1% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, a lower attainment rate than in all of the poorest school districts in the country and significantly lower than the corresponding national rate of 28.8%.

Muskegon is quite poor, but its school spending, at $12,294 per pupil annually, is actually well above both the state and national education expenditures. This could be due to state and local funding programs designed to offset the effects of poverty. However, despite the relatively high expenditure, educational outcomes are poor in the area. Muskegon Heights high school graduation rate of 47.9% is one of the worst in the country.

8. Madison Community Unit School District 12, Illinois
> Median household income:
$19,272
> Student enrollment: 792
> State per pupil spending: $12,288
> District per pupil spending: $14,193

According to a study on school funding inequality conducted by The Education Trust, an education advocacy group, Illinois has the largest gap in state and local funding between high and low poverty districts. However, the Madison Community Unit School District 12, where 45.4% of all residents live in poverty, is able to spend a relatively large amount on its students. The district spends an average of $14,193 per student annually, $1,905 more than the state average expenditure and $3,493 more than the national expenditure. Though local sources accounted for 15% of total funding, much lower than the contribution of local sources of about 45% across the nation, state sources supplemented the funding, accounting for about 65% of total funding — much more than the average state funding contribution nationwide of 45.6%.

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