7. Yazoo City Municipal School District, Mississippi
> Median household income: $19,197
> Student enrollment: 2,624
> State per pupil spending: $8,130
> District per pupil spending: $7,454
The federal government provides just over 9% of the average American school district’s funding. Only three of Mississippi’s 148 school districts receive a smaller share from the federal government, and the Yazoo City Municipal School District, which receives over one-quarter of its funding from the feds, is not one of them. The median annual household income in the district’s tax base is $19,197, far less than half the median household income of $53,046 nationwide. Though nearly 94% of district students attend public schools, the school system is underfunded by national standards. The district spends $7,454 per pupil annually — less than the $8,130 the average Mississippi school district spends and well below the corresponding national average spending of $10,700.
6. Jackson Independent School District, Kentucky
> Median household income: $19,125
> Student enrollment: 428
> State per pupil spending: $9,316
> District per pupil spending: $9,360
Across the country, where the median annual household income is $53,046, schools are funded on average by equal parts from state and local sources — 45% each — and about 9% federal funding. In the Jackson Independent School District, where the typical household makes $19,125 annually, just 10% of funding is sourced locally. The bulk of the remainder comes from the Kentucky state government, which provides over three-fourths of the district’s total funding. After a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in which Kentucky’s distribution of state school funding was ruled unconstitutional, the state legislature instituted a more equitable distribution scheme. Perhaps as a result, the Jackson Independent School District spends $9,360 per pupil per year, nearly the same amount the state spends on average per student.
5. Highland Park City Schools, Michigan
> Median household income: $18,981
> Student enrollment: 977
> State per pupil spending: $10,948
> District per pupil spending: $16,896
With a median household income of $18,981, Michigan’s Highland Park School district, outside Detroit, is the fifth poorest in the country. Unlike most of the nation’s poorest school districts, a large share of students in the Highland Park area attend private schools. While 16.5% of American students are enrolled in private schools, slightly more than 22% of the student population in Michigan’s poorest school district attend private educational institutions. Despite the low incomes, public school expenditure was actually much higher than the national average, at $16,896. Yet, the high spending has not resulted in better outcomes. The district’s graduation rate of 26.6% was the 13th lowest in the nation out of nearly 10,000 school districts.
More than 21% of public school funding in Highland Park comes from the federal government, a larger share than in all but two of the poorest school districts, and significantly more than the 9.1% of total funding the average American school district receives from the federal government.
4. Monticello Independent School District, Kentucky
> Median household income: $18,738
> Student enrollment: 894
> State per pupil spending: $9,316
> District per pupil spending: $9,592
The typical household in Monticello earns $18,738 annually, well below the nationwide median household income of $53,046. Poor educational attainment likely explains the low incomes. Only 59.1% of area adults have a high school diploma.
With such low incomes in the area, it is perhaps no surprise that no students in the school district attend private school. Like most of the poorest school districts, the Monticello Independent School District’s annual spending on instruction per pupil falls below the national average spending. While nationwide instructional investment per pupil is $6,480 annually, instructional spending in Kentucky’s poorest school district is only $6,075, about $400 short of the national average. Nearly 75% of the district’s funding comes from state coffers, while local sources, such as taxes and parent contributions, account for a minimal 8.3% of total funding.