Per pupil funding formulae

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Per pupil funding formulae are policies by which all schools in a given state or district receive government funding in relative uniformity based on the number of pupils enrolled at the school. These policies are in contrast to local district-based funding models, whereby wealthy districts are able to contribute a lower relative share of their wealth to fund much better resourced schools, while poorer districts must use a greater share of their wealth to often still fund much more poorly resourced schools. Per-pupil funding formulae are typically implemented with a variety of adjustments for factors such as cost of living and share of high-needs students. The degree to which local school districts are allowed to supplement the per-pupil aid formula with additional funds may also vary.




The State of Orange is economically diverse and features high degree of residential segregation based on income level and wealth status. Currently, the State allows for state-approved local school districts to raise funding for their districts independently based on special district assessments, which are collected as property taxes. The result of this policy is a number of wealthy school districts that are among the country's most competitive and a larger number of mediocre and low-performing school districts that are much more poorly resourced. The State of Orange adopts and phases in a new per-pupil funding formula by which the education system is instead funded by statewide taxes that are redistributed to districts equally based on student population. Wealthy school districts may be allowed to fundraise additional revenues for their own schools, while the poorer school districts will now have much greater funding available to them.



Tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:

  1. Potential loss of public school student populations due to greater private school enrollment
  2. Potential disparity in funding between districts with different costs of living and student populations requiring different levels of support
Compatibility Assessment

Compatibility Assessment.png

If answered yes, the following questions indicate conditions under which the policy may be most effectively implemented:

  1. Is the current system of education funding producing large discrepancies in school resources due to differences in wealth or income?
  2. Are the discrepancies in school resources leading to significant differences in student achievement based on family income or wealth?
  3. Are the differences in student achievement leading to poor economic outcomes and a lack of qualified applicants for local jobs?
  4. Are the Tradeoffs described above likely to be less applicable or significant in the given context?


Assuming that a jurisdiction has decided to adopt the policy, the following questions will need to be answered when determining how to implement this policy:

  1. What components of education (teacher salaries, school facilities, after school programs, etc.) will be part of the per-pupil funding formula, and which classes of education expenditures will be funded differently?
  2. How will revenues be generated to pay for centralized education funding?
  3. What, if any, per pupil funding adjustments should be made based on a district or school's cost of living?
  4. What, if any, per pupil funding adjustments should be made based on a district or school's population of high-needs students, which may require additional resources and be costlier to educate?
  5. What restrictions, if any, should be placed on the ability of local school districts to supplement statewide funding allocations with locally-raised funding?



  • Common. Some form of per pupil funding formulae is employed by an estimated 47 out of 50 states in the U.S. [1] This prevalence is in part due to a series of lawsuits and court cases beginning in the 1970s that challenged whether or not states were failing to meet their own constitutional obligations to deliver basic education to their populations.
  • For governance level(s): National, State or Provincial, Local. Per pupil funding formulae may be applied at any level of governance above the institution. In the U.S., it is typically applied at the state level.




  • Advocates - Educational Equity. Assumption: Per pupil funding formulae offset achievement gaps produced by income and wealth-based residential segregation.
  • Constituent Groups - Urban Residents. Assumption: Urban school districts may support per pupil formulae if the districts have high poverty rates and receive greater funding under this model. However, if urban land values and costs of living are higher, urban residents may oppose this policy unless adjustments for items such as cost of living are built into the formula.


  • Constituent Groups - Suburban Residents. Assumption: wealthier suburbs are not able to provide supplemental funding to their own local schools because their contributions to school-related funding are redistributed by a state or higher-level authority to poorer districts.
  • Advocates - Educational Choice. Assumption: per pupil funding formulae reduces a district's independence in choosing how much funding it should be dedicating to its local schools.






  1. A School Funding Formula for Philadelphia. Pew Charitable Trusts.
  2. "Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF)." District of Columbia Website.
  3. "CPS adopts per-pupil budgets, equal charter funding." Catalyst Chicago, March 11, 2013.
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