Study: Virginia Bucks National Trend for School Spending

Mar 12, 2019

Many school districts across the country remain largely segregated by race. And across the country nonwhite school districts get $23 billion dollars less in funding than white districts do. But, according to a new report, Virginia actuallys bucks that trend.


Virginia districts that serve mostly black students actually spend more per pupil than districts that serve mostly white students, about $200 more. The commonwealth is one of just a handful of states where that’s true.


“It’s somewhat challenging to put together a simple narrative for Virginia because it doesn’t necessarily follow easy and simple trends,” says Matt Richmond with Edbuild, an organization that studies school funding and released this latest report.

One possible reason Virginia looks different than the rest of the country could be because the state has relatively large, county-based, school districts.  

That’s actually one of EdBuild’s policy suggestions for states aiming to increase equity in education funding.

“The idea here is that you just want to get as many different types of communities of various levels of wealth as possible in one administrative unit,” Richmond says. “That allows you to smooth out the discrepancies in the wealth across the different communities.”

Virginia has 133 school districts. New Jersey, a significantly smaller state, has 678.

Interestingly, in Virginia the students who are actually most disadvantaged by funding are in high-poverty districts that serve primarily white populations -- think rural southwest Virginia.

Poor white districts receive almost $1,000 dollars less per student than poor nonwhite districts do.


This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.