Focus on Missouri

                School Funding:

The Value of Small Schools in Missouri

Missouri-specific research shows that:




1)       The average current expenditure per eligible pupil across all Missouri school districts is $6633.

<      Expenditures differ somewhat by size and rurality:

Ø       $7058 in K-8 districts (with an average enrollment of 150 students) vs. $6561 in K-12 districts (with an average enrollment of 1983 students)

Ø       $6677 in rural districts vs. $6533 in non-rural districts[1]

Ø       $6974 in small K-12 districts (under 630 students) vs. $6265 in large K-12 districts (over 630 students)[2]

Ø       $6566 in rural K-12 districts vs. $6552 in non-rural K-12 districts


<      Very small district size can be associated with higher expenditures per pupil, simply because many of the costs in education are fixed, either by necessity, regulation or convention. Every school, no matter how small, has subject-area certified teachers, a principal, counselor, etc.


2)       Small rural districts and large non-rural districts have the highest average tax levies in Missouri[3]

<      In 2002 the average total tax levy was:

Ø        $4.16 in the state’s 224 small rural districts

Ø        $4.15 in the 154 large non-rural districts

Ø        $3.66 in the 118 large rural districts

Ø        $3.36 in the 28 small non-rural districts


3)  The foundation formula does not adequately address the inequities in funding across Missouri school districts

<      2002 data show that there is a $9187 (301%) difference in per pupil spending between the highest-spending ($13,748) and lowest-spending ($4,561) districts in the state[4]

<      When the formula is less than fully funded, the poorest school districts, as measured by equalized assessed valuation per child, receives the greatest reduction in funding per child


4)   The amount of local tax dollars spent on education in Missouri has little relationship to district residents’ ability to pay

<      The district median household income in Missouri ranges from a high of $140,917 to a low of $16,192, resulting in a difference of $124,725 between the wealthiest and poorest school districts[5]

<      Only 7% of the variance in district total levy is explained by median household income.  This shows that how wealthy or how poor the people residing in any school district are has little bearing on the amount of the tax levy that voters approve.

<      Non-rural districts derive an average of 10% more revenue from local and county dollars, but the assessed valuation in non-rural districts averages $317 million more than in each rural district

<      If the wealthiest district in the state maintains a $3.20 levy, the tax levy in the poorest district in the state would have to increase to $63.92 in order to generate equivalent dollars per student[6]



In Small Districts       (under 600)

In Large Districts         (over 600)

 In Rural     Districts

In Non-Rural    Districts

Avg Median Household Income





Avg Median Family Income





Avg Assessed Valuation

$14 million

$230 million

$29 million

$346 million

Avg Assessed Valuation/Student





Local/County $’s as % of Tot Rev






[1] Rurality is defined by the National Center for Education Statistics Locale Codes.  Locale Codes of 7 (rural, outside a metro area) and 8 (rural, inside a metro area) are considered rural; Locale Codes of 1-6 are non-rural.

[2] 630 was the median number of students across Missouri’s school districts in 2002-03

[3] A summary of national research, on which “The Value of Small Schools in Missouri: A Call to Informed Action” is based, is available at or at

[4] Department of Elementary and Secondary Education data collected from CORE DATA reports

[5] 2000 US Census Data

[6] Lankford, R.L. (2004) “Impact of Underfunding the Missouri Foundation Formula” and “Comparison of Median Household Incomes and Tax Levies Across Missouri School Districts”.  Excel spreadsheets.  Available at