U.S. school districts serving a large body of students of color and students from low-income families receive significantly less funding than those serving mostly white students and students from wealthier families, a new report released Tuesday found.
The Education Trust analysis reported that the highest poverty school districts receive about $1,000, or 7 percent, less per student in state and local funding than the lowest poverty school districts. The gap widens when comparing districts serving high populations of students of color and those serving fewer students of color — the former receive about $1,800, or 13 percent, less per student than the latter.
The gaps vary on a state-by-state basis. Illinois exceeds the national average by almost double, with the highest poverty districts in the state receiving 22 percent less in state and local funding than the lowest poverty districts.
As the report details, these disparities add up. A district with 5,000 students, for instance, loses almost $5 million in funding that could be used to hire more teachers, reduce class size, and implement professional development programs for educators.
The inequities have improved slightly since the Education Trust’s last funding gap report in 2015 — by three percentage points when comparing high poverty school districts to low poverty ones, and by two percentage points when comparing districts serving high populations of students of color to those serving fewer — but the gap is still alarming.
“The funding gaps between high and low poverty districts look even worse when we consider that students in poverty are likely to need additional supports in order to succeed academically,” the report reads. “In other words, simply offering equal funding isn’t enough. Moreover, some states that fund their highest poverty districts equally, or even progressively … are still providing substantially fewer dollars to districts that serve the most students of color than to those that serve the fewest.”
The inequities are especially concerning given President Donald Trump’s most recent budget proposal, which aims to slash education funding by $3.6 billion. More than half of those cuts come from the elimination of a $2.1 billion Title II program known as the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grant, which is used by schools to pay for teacher professional development, reductions in class size, and the formation of new evaluation procedures.
According to a 2017 fact sheet by the Education Trust, gutting the Title II program “would be particularly hard felt in our higher poverty schools where educators and students need more support — not less.”