Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Systemic District Change & School Funding: Guiding Principles for State School Finance Systems

Oct 5, 2017 - 2 minutes

When developing a statewide school finance system that seeks to distribute state education dollars equitably and transparently, it is not only necessary to analyze financial and demographic data such as district expenditures, state and local revenues, community wealth factors, and student enrollment and learning needs, it is also necessary to attempt to consider the resource needs of the schools of the future, and determine how to best support how educators project classrooms, schools, and districts will evolve. This is particularly important because major overhauls in state school finance systems by state legislative bodies tend to happen only once every 20-30 years.

It is also important, when designing a statewide school finance system, to ensure resources are available to schools and districts to implement a variety of educational approaches, and that schools and districts have the resources they need to redefine and redesign classroom instruction to meet the needs of students in an ever-changing society.

Based on a literature review of topics related to systemic change, school finance, and student-centered learning, along with 20 structured interviews conducted with district leaders, school leaders, and state policymakers from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, this report identifies five guiding principles for designing statewide school finance systems that will support systemic change at the district-level.

  1. Funding Must be Flexible
  2. Funding Must be Stable and Predictable
  3. Funding Must be Sufficient and Equitably Distributed
  4. Funding Must Consider the Learning Needs of Students
  5. Funding Must be Provided to Support Innovation and Start-up Expenses

Included with each guiding principle in the report is a review of the relevant academic literature, identified themes from the structured interviews, and illustrative examples of interview participants’ experiences.

Taken together, these guiding principles provide an outline for states across the United States, not just New England, for designing school finance systems that support systemic changes and ensure resources are available for schools and districts to implement a variety of educational approaches to meet the needs of students today and in the future.


Connecticut School Finance Project. (2017). Systemic District Change & School Funding: Guiding Principles for State School Finance Systems. New Haven, CT: Author. Retrieved from


Stay Up-to-Date

Sign up to get new reports and the latest data sent right to your inbox.

We care about the protection of your data. Read our Privacy Policy.