School Funding Analysis Highlights Education Inequalities

Money is not the answer for every issue facing U.S. schools, but as emphasized in a new series from NPR, it can make a huge difference when administrators are trying to decide between fixing broken plumbing and paying for one more teacher. As shown in NPR’s analysis of spending per student per district, the disparity in funding across American school districts is significantly impacting the achievement gap between the wealthiest and poorest students. 

An important factor is the needs of the poorer districts can exceed the wealthier ones. In one highlighted district, the administrators take on multiple roles – the superintendent also serves as a crossing guard – and the district also runs a health clinic, food pantry, and shelter. 

“It's a double whammy for educators…who serve kids living in poverty: They often have less local money to work with but higher costs than other, more affluent districts. Kids can't check their poverty at the classroom door.”

The authors also turn a critical eye towards a school funding system that relies primarily on local revenue.

“The problem with a school-funding system that relies so heavily on local property taxes is straightforward: Property values vary a lot from neighborhood to neighborhood, district to district. And with them, tax revenues... Most of the nation's superintendents and principals will tell you that whether they can afford a year-round art teacher or new textbooks depends at least in part on the property wealth around them.”

Read “Why America's Schools Have A Money Problem,” NPR Education (April 18, 2016)


Education Policy