Few public services in the United States contain such stark differences in quality as the public education system. While there are several school districts that spend more than $50,000 per student on education each year, in other districts education expenditures amount to less than $2,000 per student.
That difference in spending contributes to major disparities in student outcomes throughout the country. The majority of a school’s budget is spent on staff and teacher salaries. A school that lacks the resources to attract the best teachers can put students at a greater disadvantage.
Those disadvantages are often the greatest in the poorest parts of the country. Approximately 44% of all school funding in the United States comes from local sources such as property tax. As a result, many of the worst school districts are in poor counties where a majority of households make less than half of that of the typical American household.
To determine the worst school district in every state, 24/7 Wall St. developed an index based on various measures of child poverty, per-pupil expenditure, graduation rate, teachers per student, the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree, preschool enrollment, and AP enrollment.
Correction: Because of possible reporting inaccuracies due to migration, district boundary changes, school attendance area changes, and other technical factors causing distortions in high school graduation rates published by the National Center for Education Statistics, a previous version of this article listed different school districts for the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. These errors have been corrected.