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.

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