Comparability of State and Local Expenditures Among Schools Within Districts: A Report From the Study of School-Level Expenditures
This latest from the Department of Education—the first national analysis of school-level funding—confirms what countless smaller studies have implied: Schools with higher proportions of poor students often receive less funding than lower-poverty schools in the same district. In fact, more than 40 percent of Title I schools had lower per-pupil personnel expenditures than non-Title I schools in their districts. This finding holds across multiple measures of expenditures, from teacher salaries to non-personnel resources—and despite the feds’ efforts at ensuring “comparability.” For those scratching their heads as to how this could possibly be so—doesn’t Title I’s “comparability provision” mandate that districts spend about the same for all schools?—here’s the skinny: Schools can prove comparability without figuring in teacher salaries. Per Title I rules, the number of staff must be comparable, not how much they’re paid. Thing is, low socio-economic status schools often have newer, cheaper teachers. This is an onion of an issue—with onerous layers of salary structure, staff placement, and control of funds—and there’s no easy solution. (Even the policy brief that ED released with this report agrees.) But one thing’s for certain: Uncle Sam can’t set this right. States, it’s time to step up.
Ruth Heuer and Stephanie Stullich, Comparability of State and Local Expenditures Among Schools Within Districts: A Report From the Study of School-Level Expenditures (U.S. Department of Education, 2011).
Category: School Finance
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