Date of Award

Summer 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Educational Leadership

Committee Director

William A. Owings

Committee Member

Steve Myran

Committee Member

John Ritz


Most states allocate education funds by grant or category at the district level, and most districts distribute funds at the school level. 1 Differences between allocations from the states to the districts and distribution methods from the districts to the schools can lead to unintended consequences in funding equity. This may undermine the purpose of the funding policies developed by state legislatures. Most states use a formula that provides a foundation funding amount to the district for each student. In addition, most states typically provide supplementary categorical funding to the district based on demographic characteristics of students (such as free and reduced lunch eligibility, English language learner, etc.), which, theoretically, increases the level of services needed and, therefore, the cost of educating those students.2 The distribution of these categorical funds and tracking of money occur only at the district level, so no evidence exists to show that money is reaching the schools or students who need it most.

This analysis explores intra-district spending and resource distribution within two school divisions in Virginia to determine what, if any, inequities exist. The researcher adapted Berne and Stiefel's (1984) inter-district framework in which three equity concepts were examined: horizontal equity, vertical equity, and equal opportunity. Once the researcher obtained the financial and descriptive information about the two divisions and the high schools within those divisions, the researcher further examined the schools with the highest and the lowest percentage of students living in poverty (indexed by participation in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program). The study found that while average class size varies to some extent among the schools, there are important differences in teacher quality, curriculum, equipment, and supplies.

Even though this study was limited in its sample size, the implications, and the opportunities are far reaching. If low-SES children have the proper support and understanding, financial status does not have to be the ultimate determinant of academic achievement.