While federal spending on K-12 education amounts to just 8% of what it costs to run the nation’s public schools, that funding is essential to supporting the nation’s most vulnerable students argues David Knight, an assistant professor at the University of Washington College of Education, in a commentary published by The Conversation.

“Federal funds make up a small proportion of total funding for U.S. K-12 education, but those funds largely serve children facing economic hardship or with learning differences,” writes Knight. That includes funding for the National School Lunch Program and the Title I program, which targets funding to schools serving low-income students, as well as special education services.

In his piece, Knight writes that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 sent the equivalent of $56.5 billion, adjusted for inflation, to schools and likely saved thousands of education jobs from budget-based layoffs. In contrast, federal aid provided through the March 2020 CARES Act amounts to only about $13 billion for school districts, with an extra $3 billion for governors to use for K-12 education at their discretion.

With the White House saying it may cut spending for school districts that don’t resume daily in-person instruction when the new school year begins, Knight says that approach could harm vulnerable students and families.

“At a time when schools really need federal leadership and financial support, the administration is threatening to withhold funding from the highest-need schools,” Knight writes.

Read the piece in its entirety at The Conversation.

Knight studies the economics of education and school finance, including equity in the allocation of school resources, educator labor markets and cost-effectiveness analysis.


David Knight, Assistant Professor of Education

Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications
206-543-1035, dwunder@uw.edu