School Funding Changes

1960 to 1988
Allan R. Odden
University of Wisconsin–Madison

There have been significant changes in public school funding in the United States since 1960. Public schools have enjoyed a history of continuous increases in real funding in both total and per pupil terms during this period. While catalysts for this support can be traced in part to well-known critical events—Sputnik in the 1950s, poverty and equity programs in the 1960s, enrollment growth in both decades, school finance and property tax reform in the 1970s, and education quality reforms in the 1980s—to a large degree the long-term nature of continued rising school funds reflects underlying strong citizen support for U.S. public schools combined with the health of the country's growing economy.

Despite both pessimism at the beginning of this decade about the outlook for school funding and the long and deep recession in which the decade began, this article shows that real school funding between 1980 and 1988 continued to increase at substantial rates. The first section provides an overview of school revenues in the context of the country's gross national product and personal income from 1960 to 1980. The next section briefly describes the funding increases needed to finance the education reforms proposed during the 1980s—the higher standards, expectations, and requirements such as those recommended in A Nation at Risk, and the programs to upgrade teaching into a profession such as those recommended in A Nation Prepared. The last section provides detail for the country as a whole and for several regions on education finance changes during the 1980s (up to 1988) and compares the increases to the levels needed to fund the proposed reforms.

Suggested citationOdden, A. R. (1989, February). School funding changes: 1960 to 1988 [Report]. Policy Analysis for California Education.