‘We still have a terribly inequitable system’: Study finds $23 billion school funding disparity


A not-so surprising new study has confirmed that white school districts received $23 billion more state and local funding than non-white school districts with roughly the same number of children, sfgate.com reports.

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The funding gap is largely attributed to district reliance on property taxes, which is a primary source of funding for schools. Schools in communities that overwhelmingly white are thriving because these areas tend to be wealthier and residents pay higher taxes.

“States have largely failed to keep up with the growing wealth disparities across their communities,” concludes the report released Tuesday by EdBuild, a New Jersey-based research and advocacy group that focuses on school funding.

The publication notes that in 2016, nonwhite districts received about “$54 billion in 2016 in local tax dollars – or about $4,500 per student. White districts, home to higher incomes and less poverty, collected more than $77 billion, or just over $7,000 per student.”

The study did not analyze federal dollars, much of which goes to the poorest communities.

“While we have made some progress on the issue of economic inequality in our schools, we still have a terribly inequitable system,” the report said.

“Neither the courts nor legislatures have fixed the fundamental school-funding problem for low-income students,” the report concludes. “But they’re even further from a fix for students in concentrated nonwhite districts, regardless of wealth.”

Fixing such a system may require “finally commit[ing] to challenging the funding aspect of local control.”

Overall, the report noted the 21 states where white districts received more funding and the 14 states where nonwhite districts collected more. The other states reportedly had no meaningful racial diversity to analyze.

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“Every state has some sort of mechanism in place to try and equalize and neutralize the effects that local property wealth has,” said Aaron Smith, an expert on school finance at the libertarian Reason Foundation. “The problem is that these equalization mechanisms vary substantially in terms of how effective they are.”