Inequity of School Funding and the Importance of Administrator Preparation Programs

Inequity of School Funding

Close up of person using calculator and spreadsheets

The principalship in any school setting comes with the responsibility of drafting and proposing responsive budgets that are not only functional, but also use the limited resources given as effectively as possible. School leaders are tasked with achieving success for all students and communities, but in many instances, they are given restrictive financial environments to do so. Many studies have identified the positive association between school funding and student achievement (Elliott, 1998; Greenwald, Hedges & Laine, 1996; Okpala, Okpala, & Smith, 2001). With this perspective, the purpose of this report is to investigate Fiscal Year 2017 District Profile Report (CUPP), published by the Ohio Department of Education, to examine school finance distribution among districts in Franklin County. Further, one would assume that with the tremendous expectation on school leaders to be fiscally responsible, universities and licensure programs that educate future administrators would supply their students with the adequate tools to fine-tune their budgets successfully. As such, we explored licensure programs in Ohio to discover the extent to which financial courses are being integrated into principal licensure curricula to deal with potential inequity in Franklin County Schools.

First, we compared the FY2017 CUPP report of both the average of Ohio and Franklin County regarding the expenditure per pupil data in order to examine Franklin County’s relative level of inequity in school funding.

Ohio Statewide Franklin County
per pupil
Instructional Expenditure
per pupil
per pupil
Instructional Expenditure
per pupil
Average $11,603 $6,498 $12,194 $7,248
Maximum $23,908 $13,634 $16,013 $10,008
Minimum $8,016 $4,576 $9,232 $5,335
Range $15,892 $9,059 $6,781 $4,673
Ratio 2.98 2.98 1.73 1.88

According to Table 1, Franklin County’s equality level in school finance was better than the state average in FY 2017 by comparing range and ratio of total and instructional expenditure per pupil. However, this result does not necessarily mean that Franklin County’s school finance in FY 2017 was equally distributed. The maximum expenditure per pupil ($16,013) was compared to the minimum expenditure per pupil ($9,232); that comparison resulted in a ratio of 1.73:1. Therefore, at the outset, substantial disparities in expenditure per pupil among school districts of Franklin County in FY 2017 were evident. Also, there was no difference between expenditure per pupil ratio (2.98:1) and instructional expenditure per pupil ratio (2.98:1) in the state average data (Table 1). However, in the case of Franklin County, instructional expenditure per pupil ratio was 1.88:1, which is in contrast to the total expenditure per pupil ratio, 1.74:1. This means that Franklin County had more unequal distribution than the average distribution of Ohio in terms of instructional expenditure per pupil, which is known as a relatively more crucial predictor for student achievement than expenditure per pupil in general (Hanushek, 1997).

In order to investigate the causal funding sources which can explain financial inequity among districts in Franklin County in FY 2017, a multiple regression analysis was conducted by using data from FY2017 CUPP report. Sweetland (2014) showed that Ohio’s school funding is mainly decided by the revenue of local, state, and federal. Acknowledging this finding, each district’s local, state, and federal revenue per pupil were included as predictors to examine their influence on total expenditure per pupil variation among districts in Franklin County.

Table 2. Predicting expenditure per pupil of districts of Franklin County in FY 2017 (FY2017 CUPP Report)

Variable b (std.b) Std.Error t R
Model 0.969 0.940
District Local Revenue
Per Pupil
.75 (1.30) .08 9.29***
District State Revenue
Per Pupil
.41 (.45) .41 1.67
District Federal Revenue
Per Pupil
.55 (.13) .55 .63

Note. N = 16; *< .05, **< .01, ***p< .001

According to the Table 2, the district local revenue per pupil is the only statistically significant predictor of the expenditure per pupil of each district. It means that expenditure per pupil of each district is significantly dependent on each local’s taxable valuation.

Considering the reality of each district’s taxable valuation, we can provide two implications for school leaders based on the result of this analysis. First, it is important for district and school leaders in Franklin County to understand financial issues, conditions, and policies of their local residents. Second, educational leaders in Franklin County, especially school leaders in high poverty areas, should be equipped with enough knowledge and skills about effective financial management skills so that they can provide good quality of educational services to their students regardless of socioeconomic status. The following section addresses how well educational leaders in Ohio and Franklin County are prepared in terms of financial management by focusing on principal preparation programs and relevant state policies.                                                                          

Administrator Education and Training

Older persons sitting in a coffee shop style meeting

In order to begin the principalship, educators must typically enroll in a master’s program at an accredited university and complete roughly 30 credit hours. Further, 12 additional credits beyond the master’s coursework are needed before licensure can be attained. However, a simple exploration of coursework at two respected universities with the licensure programs – the University of Dayton and The Ohio State University – reveal that school finance does not receive the attention it may require. In an observation of the University of Dayton’s curriculum for the Master of Science in Education with a Major in Educational Leadership and the licensure course expectation, “School Finance” is listed as only 3 credits (one course) of the 42 credit hour program (University of Dayton, 2016). The Ohio State University offers a masters and licensure in only 36 credit hours. Within this curriculum, “School Finance and Business Administration” is listed as one of the required courses, and is the only course visibly related to school finance (The Ohio State University, 2014). 

When a new teacher is hired in the state of Ohio, they are placed into a “residency” status, upon which they are given a mentor to assist them in learning how to become a quality educator (Resident Educator Program, n.d.). This residency is a four-year process that includes being assigned a mentor – all of which occurs after four years of university training to become a classroom teacher. In comparison, the principal or school leader is asked to step into a position with relatively little education, and also without a mentor. In contrast to teachers, school leaders are asked to discover how to become a successful leader and financial steward of a large institution on their own. One would believe that with the high stakes involved with educational leadership, school leaders would be introduced to impactful decisions with the help of a mentor such as the Resident Educator Program for teachers.

With this understanding, it should be commonplace to help educate and provide our school leaders with every tool possible to help educate our students. Further, it is fair to assess that if one finds it appropriate for teachers to be given mentors, principals and superintendents could benefit from an experienced, supportive presence as well. By providing such a relationship, experienced school leaders who have made budget decisions in areas with hardship can impart knowledge to leaders making these decisions for the first time. It would only seem reasonable that given the opportunity, school administrators could learn from experienced educational leaders to directly improve the opportunities for all students.


With the inequity faced by Franklin County students, it is clear that well prepared, creative, and financially perceptive leaders are needed to be able to assume positions in schools. These leaders must work successfully in an environment that is faced with inequity as a reality. To do so, licensure programs should increase financial preparedness as a priority for school leaders. Further, investment into mentoring new and beginning schools leaders should become a common practice.