States rely primarily on income and sales taxes to fund elementary and secondary education. State legislatures generally determine the level and distribution of funding, following different rules and procedures depending on the state.
State funding for elementary and secondary education is generally distributed by formula. Many states use funding formulas that provide funding based on the number of pupils in a district. Some formulas are weighted based on different factors such as the number of students with disabilities, the number of students living in poverty, or the number of students for whom English is a second language. The allocation for students with different types of needs can vary significantly depending on the funding formula. Additionally, in some states the formula is designed so that higher poverty school districts with less access to local funding receive additional assistance.
The share of total education funding provided by the state government differs from state to state. In some states the state share is as high as 82 percent, while in others it is as low as 29 percent. States that rely heavily on local property taxes instead of state funding to fund elementary and secondary education, often have larger funding disparities between school districts in the state.