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Teacher & Administrator Perceptions About K-12 Education Finance

by Staff

Results of the first annual Allovue Education Finance Survey suggest that education professionals have varying experiences, views, and gaps in knowledge related to key issues in K-12 education finance, including their districts’ overall financial well-being, teacher salaries, and principals’ level of control over their schools’ budgets.

The survey was commissioned by Allovue, a K-12 education finance company, and conducted by the nonprofit, nonpartisan EdWeek Research Center. The questionnaire was administered to 1,303 U.S.-based teachers, principals, assistant principals, and district leaders in November and December of 2022.

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The study introduces the Allovue Education Spending Confidence Index, a new measure that takes the pulse of teacher and administrator views of the financial status of their employers. With unprecedented federal investments in K-12 education during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people might believe that schools are in a strong financial position. However, our findings show that education leaders view their school and district finances in a more negative light: on a scale ranging from -100 (worst financial status and outlook) to +100 (best financial status and outlook), respondents’ average score was -38. In a time of seemingly abundant new resources, why do education professionals perceive resource challenges?

Some reasons provided by respondents to explain their negative scores include a belief that federal COVID relief funds were more often insufficient than transformational; concerns that funding has not kept pace with inflation; and the sense that per-pupil expenditures are increasing because today’s students have higher levels of need than their predecessors.

The report also delves into conceptions and misconceptions around teacher salaries.

Asked how much they believe would be a fair annual salary for the work they do, teachers named a median wage of $80,000, an amount comparable to overall median earnings for U.S. workers with similar levels of education. However, survey results suggest limited levels of awareness of the total cost of employing teachers. That expense includes not only salaries but also benefits, which cost the equivalent of roughly half of the average teacher’s salary.

One idea popular with educators is to pay teachers more by spending less on administrators. However, this change has limited potential to increase teacher salaries because there are so many more teachers than administrators. Even if all the central office administrators in the nation were eliminated, the cost savings would only be sufficient to provide the average teacher with a 2 percent wage increase—far short of what educators communicated would be necessary to have a fair wage. Most districts will need additional resources if they are to raise teacher pay to anywhere near the level that teachers believe is fair given the demands of their jobs.

Finally, the report examines the degree to which the administrators closest to the classroom (principals) are permitted to make decisions about their schools’ budgeting. Survey results suggest that principals control only a small minority of their budgets (7 to 8 percent). Although most say they should have more budget autonomy, only a minority of administrators in the central office agree, making it unlikely that this will happen anytime soon.

The report concludes with recommendations for addressing practitioner, parent, policymaker, and taxpayer knowledge gaps about K-12 school finance.

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