A loophole in federal school funding laws allows high-minority schools (with 90 percent or more minority students) to receive less funding than schools with mostly non-Hispanic white students. The disparity was revealed in a report from the Center for American Progress titled Unequal Education, which indicated “racially isolated” schools spend an average of $733 less per pupil in funding than other schools.
Nationwide, schools spend an average of $334 more on non-Hispanic white students than on those from minority groups, and researchers say many of the districts are unaware of the disparity.
“Many districts aren’t really aware that this problem exists, because they haven’t had the data until now,” Ary Spatig-Amerikaner, study author, said.
“This means that the average school serving 90 percent or more students of color would see an annual increase of more than $443,000 if it were to be brought up to the same spending level as its almost-entirely-white sister schools,” stated the report.
The data indicates the lost monies could pay for an additional nine to 12 teachers in schools with high numbers of minority students, and, in fact, it is likely teacher salaries which account for some of the spending variances.
According to the report, new teachers who start out in high-minority schools are likely to earn much lower than long-time teachers in predominantly non-Hispanic white districts. This allows for a loophole under the No Child Left Behind law, which “allows districts to claim that they are providing comparable services to Title I and non-Title I schools even if all their most expensive (and likely most experienced) teachers may be clustered in non-Title I schools.” (Title I schools are those with a large low-income, high minority student population.)
“This leads to significantly lower per-pupil spending in schools with the highest concentrations of non-white students,” wrote Spatig-Amerikaner.
In a conference call regarding the new data, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) stated “[The study adds a] whole body of empirical data that shows that young people of color and poor kids in general are being shortchanged due to the way we fund schools.”
Changing the law to allow for a more equal distribution of funds, as Fattah is attempting with new purposed legislation, would impact more than 3,000 districts across the country and approximately 77 percent of students.
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