Schools with predominately minority student populations receive far less funding than schools with mostly white students thanks to a loophole in federal school funding laws, according to a report from the Center for American Progress released Wednesday. The report, titled “Unequal Education,” studied the different levels of per pupil funding in America’s public schools and found that in schools where the student population was at least 90 percent minority, the school received $733 less per student than a school where the student body was at least 90 percent white.
The disparity costs the average high-minority school more than $443,000 a year in funding, the report found:
The average-sized, mostly minority school has 605 students. 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. The average first-year teacher in the United States is paid $36,780; the average teacher with 11 years to 20 years of experience earns $47,380.10 This funding could pay the salary for 12 additional first-year teachers or nine veteran teachers. Alternatively, this funding could pay for any number of other useful personnel or resources such as school counselors, teacher coaches, or laptop computers.
Even when not comparing the extremes — schools that are mostly minority to those that are mostly white — funding gaps still exist, the report found. Across the country, schools spend $334 more on each white student than on each student of color, and when compared to all other schools, the high-minority schools still receive $293 less per student. In 24 states, average per pupil funding drops when the number of students of color increases, and those states educate 63 percent of the nation’s students of color. The 12 states where per pupil funding increases when the minority population rises, meanwhile, educated just 12 percent of the country’s students of color.
One reason for the disparity, the study says, is what is known as the “comparability loophole” in the law governing federal funding of No Child Left Behind’s Title I (low-income) schools that “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.”
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) has proposed legislation that would eventually close the loophole, but it has hit roadblocks as Congress struggles to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. “We shouldn’t be having the kids who need the most help being the ones who get less resources,” Fattah said today, adding that he believed his legislation could pass as part of the ESEA reauthorization package. “One thing we need to do is close this loophole.”