Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program, our state summative assessment, taken by all 2nd-8th graders.


An approach to school funding based on the idea that the amount of funding schools receive should be based on some estimate of the cost of achieving the state’s educational goals. It tries to answer two questions: How much money would be enough to achieve those goals and where would it best be spent? (Source: EdSource. (2004). A Glossary of School Finance Terms.)


Alabama State Department of Education.


Funds set aside or budgeted by the state or local school district boards for a specific time period and specific purpose. The Alabama Legislature and local school boards must vote every year on appropriations. (Source: EdSource. (2004). A Glossary of School Finance Terms.)

At-Risk Students

Students who receive additional per-pupil funding from the state based on their test scores on the ACAP state assessment (those scoring in levels 1 or 2) and their status as free and reduced-price lunch eligible. (Source:

Average Daily Membership (ADM)

A measure of student enrollment. ADM is defined as the average number of students enrolled (not in attendance) on a daily basis. A school’s ADM for the first 20 days of the school year following Labor Day determines how many teacher units (and how much funding) a school receives from the Foundation Program. (Source: §16-13-232)

Base Amount

The minimum guaranteed dollar amount that the state allocates through a student-weighted funding formula to each district per student. (Source: Education Commission of the States. (2021). Glossary of K-12 Education Funding.)

Capital Grant Program from Lt. Governor’s Office

Created by Lt. Governor Ainsworth during the 2023 legislative session, this program offers competitive grants to local schools to help with expenses like improving school buildings and upgrading technology.

Career and Technical (CTE) Program

An area of study that blends academic, occupational, and life skills leading to a credential, employment, and further education. CTE programs in Alabama are organized according to 16 national career clusters. CTE programs are funded through a line item in the ETF. (Source:

Categorical Funds/Aid

Also known as direct or program-based funding. States distribute funds based on student characteristics or program needs through line items in the Education Trust Fund. Funds may be allocated using grants or reimbursements. For example, a state may provide a funding supplement for a tutoring program. (Source: Education Commission of the States. (2021). Glossary of K-12 Education Funding.)

Census-Based Funding

The state allocates funds to each district based on an assumed level of enrollment, regardless of the district’s actual demographics. This type of funding can be used in foundation formula model funding and resource allocation model funding. In Alabama, Foundation Program funding for Special Education and CTE use census-based funding. (Source: Education Commission of the States. (2021). Glossary of K-12 Education Funding.)

Economically Disadvantaged Students

Economically disadvantaged students are also referred to as students from low-income backgrounds or students in poverty. Often, the number of students receiving free or reduced lunch is used as the main measure of economically disadvantaged students. Funding from some state programs intended to help economically disadvantaged students, such as the At-Risk line item in the Education Trust Fund, use the number of students receiving free or reduced lunch to provide a small amount of funding to schools to meet the needs of their economically disadvantaged students. (Source:

Education Trust Fund

Also referred to as the ETF, this is a state account funded by income tax, sales and use tax, and other sources. Revenue sent to the ETF is used to fund education in Alabama, including early childhood programs, K-12 public schools, the Alabama Community College System, and public universities.

English Learner

A student without an English-speaking background who qualifies for English as a Second Language Services. (Source: TN Alliance K-12 School Finance Glossary)


The dollars actually spent (as opposed to planned) at a school or district. These should be consistently compared to total funding (revenue) and the annual plan for spending (budget). (Source: Allovue. (n.d.). Education Finance Glossary. Alloversity.)

Flat Weight

A single weight (percentage of the base amount for every student) or dollar amount allocated by the state for students that qualify based on certain factors or student needs. Allocations determined by flat weights do not vary based on specific program needs or student characteristics. A flat weight allocation would provide each qualifying student the same amount of money, rather than increasing or decreasing funding for qualifying students based on categories or level of need. (Source: Education Commission of the States. (2021). Glossary of K-12 Education Funding.)

Foundation Program

The main funding mechanism for K-12 public schools in Alabama. Each local board of education receives money from the state through the Foundation Program, and as a requirement, local boards must provide at least a 180-day school year to each student in their district. Each county must also collect a set minimum amount (10 mills) of property tax to go toward their local schools in order to collect Foundation Program funds from the state. (Source: §16-13-231)

Free and Reduced Lunch Program

Known as the National School Lunch Program, this program is run by the United States Department of Agriculture at the federal level and state education agencies. Students may qualify based on participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or status as a homeless, migrant, runaway, or foster student. Otherwise, students qualify if their family income is at or below 130% of the federal poverty level for free lunch or between 130% and 185% for reduced-price lunch. Historically, in Alabama, participation in the free or reduced lunch program required families to complete applications. In 2022, the ALSDE joined a pilot program through the USDA (the federal agency that runs the program) to provide free or reduced meals to more students based on their enrollment in Medicaid and other assistance programs. (Source: , Source:

Full-Time Equivalent (FTE)

Often misunderstood to mean Full-Time Employees, in school finance FTE stands for Full-Time Equivalent. Regarding the people employed at a district, FTE is the ratio a person works out of the 40 possible hours in a workweek. Someone working 60 hours a week would be 1.5 FTE, and someone working 10 hours a week would be .25 FTE. (Source: Allovue. (n.d.). Education Finance Glossary. Alloversity.)


The state allocates funds to districts that demonstrate eligibility and/or a need for funding. (Source: Education Commission of the States. (2021). Glossary of K-12 Education Funding.)

Hybrid Model

Hybrid models often combine aspects of foundation formula models, resource allocation models, and various cost factors. (Source: Education Commission of the States. (2021). Glossary of K-12 Education Funding.)

Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

A document outlining the academic goals, supports, and/or accommodations for students with disabilities to access classroom instruction.

Instructional Categories

The state allocates funding based on the cost of resources, such as staffing, classroom supplies, or other educational materials. Funding is sometimes provided for a bundle of resources. Funding for resources is often allocated based on the size of the student population with some references to student characteristics like English learner status. (Source: Education Commission of the States. (2021). Glossary of K-12 Education Funding.)

Maintenance of Effort

These are laws that require local funding bodies to allocate at least the same amount of funding to school districts as was budgeted the previous year for operating expenditures, excluding capital outlay and debt service, unless there is a decline in student enrollment. Maintenance of effort laws ensure that financial contributions by one funding body are used to enhance existing financial support from another. For example, these laws ensure that new or increased state funding provides additional support to schools, and does not result in simply replacing existing local funding, also known as supplanting. (Source: TN Alliance K-12 School Finance Glossary)

Multiple Weights

More than one weight or dollar amount can be allocated by the state based on certain factors or student needs. States may vary the amount allocated based on student need. For example, some states vary funding for students learning English as a second language, allocating more funds to students who are less fluent in English. (Source: Education Commission of the States. (2021). Glossary of K-12 Education Funding.)

Outcomes-Based Funding

Also known as performance-based funding. Used primarily in higher education policy, outcomes-based funding allocates a portion of a funding formula based on performance on specific indicators. Additionally, they may more heavily weigh students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, English learners, and other groups. (Source: Dougherty, K. J., & Vikash, R. (2011). The impacts of state performance funding systems on higher education institutions: Research literature review and policy recommendations. Community College Research Center at Teachers College Columbia University.)

Per-Pupil Expenditures

The dollars a school district spends in one fiscal year divided by the number of students the district is responsible for educating. This differs from per-pupil revenue because districts can contribute and withdraw money from “rainy day” funds (see Fund Balance) so revenues will not always reflect expenditures. The Every Student Succeeds Act requires that districts report per-pupil actual expenditures at the school level broken down by federal and state and local fund sources. (Source: Allovue. (n.d.). Education Finance Glossary. Alloversity.)

Per-Pupil Revenue

The dollars a school district receives from all funding sources in one fiscal year divided by the number of students the district is responsible for educating. (Source: Allovue. (n.d.). Education Finance Glossary. Alloversity.)

Reimbursement System

Districts submit receipts of eligible expenditures to the state, and the state reimburses districts for all or a portion of those expenditures. (Source: Education Commission of the States. (2021). Glossary of K-12 Education Funding.)

Resource-Based Funding Formula

All districts receive a minimum base amount of resources. Resources could be staffing, services, or programs, and are often based on a ratio of staffing to students like the Foundation Program. (Source: Education Commission of the States. (2021). Glossary of K-12 Education Funding.)

Revenue Sources

Funding for school districts includes those from federal, state, and local government funding. In the 2021 Fiscal Year, funding for Alabama schools received approximately 15% of their funding from federal sources, 31% from local sources, and 54% from state sources. (Source:

Salary Matrix

The state minimum salary schedule is a salary matrix that sets the minimum pay for teachers in the state based on years of experience, certification, and degree level (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Sixth-Year program, Doctoral, and non-degree). Each local district receives funding for teacher units based on how many they have employed at each degree level, certification, and years of experience, but local boards can choose to pay their teachers more with local money if it is available. (Source:

Student-Weighted Funding

A student-based funding system by which individual students, based on their characteristics (e.g., low income, ELL, or SPED status, or rurality), are given additional funding in the form of a “weight,” suggesting they need a percent of funding over the base level of funding. (Source: Allovue. (n.d.). Education Finance Glossary. Alloversity.)

Students from Low-Income Backgrounds

Also known as economically disadvantaged students. Currently, in Alabama, funding for these students is through the At-Risk Student Program in the ETF. This line item provides funding to local boards of education for students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch and students who do not score at a proficient level on the state assessment. (Source:

Teacher or Instructional Unit

A measurement of the number of state-funded teacher units that a school will receive through the Foundation Program. Funding is distributed by setting the number, or target number, of teachers or instructional support staff that state funds will support based on a ratio. Teacher or instructional unit funding is often calculated based on the number of students enrolled. Each grade band has a different ratio for teacher units earned per number of students. For example, for FY 2024, the state provided funding to districts for one teacher unit for every 14.25 students in grades K-3, a teacher for every 20.06 students in grades 4-6, a teacher for every 19.70 students in grades 7-8, and a teacher for every 17.95 students in grades 9-12. (Source: Education Commission of the States. (2021). Glossary of K-12 Education Funding.)