A recent report from nonprofit think thank EdBuild finds New Jersey, California and New York have some of the largest gaps in the country when it comes to funding districts that are either mostly minority or mostly white — and when researchers narrowed the focus to include low-income districts, the gap was even greater, The 74 reports.
The report finds districts with mostly nonwhite students get $23 billion less annually in state and local spending than those serving mostly white students, amounting to about $2,226 less per student, according to the report, which also suggests 10 million of the 12 million students enrolled in racially concentrated nonwhite districts reside in states where funding policies favor white districts.
The report also suggests that, regardless of race, students will fare better and have more opportunity if they attend a small, predominantly white school district, as these districts have the benefit of concentrating resources and amplifying political power while serving an average of about 1,500 students, compared to over 10,000 in nonwhite districts.
Both administrators and lawmakers are aware of the funding gap, but the question of how to solve it remains. While most of this is out of the hands of school administrators, they can still lobby and advocate to their state representatives to make changes.
Some ideas of evening out this gap include reducing the reliance on local property taxes to fund education, targeting extra funds to help low-income children, fixing funding gaps for individual schools within districts, and improving state education funding in terms of increased spending on public education.
In some cases, the problem of inequitable school funding has gone all the way to state supreme courts. The Kansas Supreme Court, for example, gave state lawmakers an ultimatum that they either fix school funding or face a shutdown of the state’s public schools. Ultimately, no changes were made. In New York, the Alliance for Quality Education litigated to force the state to redistribute the funds more equitably. Though progress has been made, much of it has stalled due to K-12 education cuts.
The good news is that many states are at least trying. Nationwide, the number of districts with integration plans have doubled since 2007, but funding reforms such as strategic district zoning to encourage economic integration and magnet schools have not penetrated deep into the system. However, the Trump administration is also scaling back funding from these efforts.