Congress Could Force States to Equalize School Funding

Published April 1, 1999

While some legislators view the 50 independently governed states as “laboratories of democracy,” where innovative experiments in education policy and governance may be carried out, others seem to view the states as unruly puppies that must be disciplined to respond appropriately to the wishes of a higher authority.

Apparently unimpressed by the difficulties that the individual states are having in developing workable strategies for equitable education funding, Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-Pennsylvania) has reintroduced his Equal Protection School Finance Act, HR 555, to bring federal authority to bear on school funding discrepancies.

Like President Clinton’s education proposals, Fattah’s bill would make a state’s access to federal education dollars conditional on the state doing what the federal government wants. HR 555 would require states to develop school finance systems that would substantially equalize per-pupil expenditures across the state in order to be eligible for federal funds. States would be given five years to implement finance systems that ensured adequate and equitable per-pupil expenditures across all school districts in the state.

“Our current system of school finance perpetuates a self-reinforcing distribution of opportunity in this country that is fundamentally unequal,” says Fattah. He believes the key to creating equal opportunity is to start with an equal and adequate education for all children.

Research by education policy analyst Eric A. Hanushek and others has found no consistent link between spending and student achievement.

For more information …

For more information on the relationship between spending and student achievement, use PolicyBot. Point your Web browser to, click on the PolicyBot icon, and search for Eric A. Hanushek’s “Making Schools Work: Spending and Student Achievement” (old document #2176302 executive summary (3 pp.); #2176402 part 1 (15 pp.); and #2176406 part 2 (13 pp.)) or Herbert J. Walberg’s “Losing Local Control of Education” (#2176301 executive summary (3 pp.); #2176409 part 1 (13 pp.); and #2176410 part 2 (11 pp.).