Funding Gaps 2006
The Education Trust
This latest installment of The Education Trust's annual series on the inequities in school funding is as essential as its predecessors. It succinctly explains how states and districts short-change schools that serve poor or minority students. One learns that in 2003-04, for example, Illinois spent $1,900 less per-pupil in its high-poverty schools than in their wealthier counterparts, and $1,200 less in high-minority schools than in low-minority ones. In New York the gaps were even larger: $2,300 and $2,200 respectively. Of course not all states' gaps are so egregious. Some, such as Massachusetts, actually target more funds to its neediest schools. This year, the report also includes two insightful guest-writers. The first, Goodwin Liu of UC Berkeley, explains how federal Title I funding is systematically allocated to states with fewer high-poverty students, thus exacerbating inter-state funding differences. He suggests a couple of remedies: Title I should reward states for their spending "effort" (i.e., spending as a function of their tax base) rather than total spending, and the feds should spend more overall to smooth out differences among states. Why not just fund students on a per-pupil basis? The second is Marguerite Roza of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, who explains how districts obscure inequities among their individual schools, both by "salary averaging" (i.e., budgets that hide the fact that more expensive teachers tend to work in wealthier, low-minority schools) and by using "unrestricted" funds unfairly--sometimes simply by allocating resources among schools with little regard for their students' needs. Weighted student funding would help address all of these inequities, as would a sustained commitment to unraveling the "tangled webs" that school budgets have become. Money is no panacea, but this report is right to note that we must "at least measure whether money is being appropriately targeted to provide extra support to the students and schools who start out behind." You can find it online here.
blog comments powered by Disqus