Race and income level playing role in public school funding
CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 7/14/2011, 11:05 a.m.
According to a report released by the Center for American Progress (CAP), race is playing a factor when it comes to funding for public schools. CAP conducted the report in response to a recent backgrounder done by the conservative Heritage Foundation, which said that racial disparities in public school funding are a myth.
Authors of the CAP report, Raegen Miller and Diana Epstein, say CAP's analysis aggregates spending figures from the regional and national level, which obscures disparities within states and districts.
The state-by-state analysis of district-level data provides evidence of racial disparities in education funding. Miller and Epstein found that racial disparities in education spending clearly exist in a host of states, including Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania, where per-pupil-expenditures for Black and Hispanic students hover around 90 percent of those for white students.
According to the report, the findings are a reflection of these states' regressive funding tendencies, and the fact that people of color tend to be more concentrated in high-poverty districts. The flipside of this disturbing evidence comes from states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey, where high-poverty districts receive greater support from state and local sources than low-poverty districts.
Epstein said that New York is one of the hardest hit states when it comes to racial disparities in public education funding.
"Our purpose for this report was to refute this ridiculous claim that race is not playing a role in educational funding," Epstein said. "We feel that it's important to highlight the fact that school funding is unequal. There are also disparities within districts in schools."
When it came to funding in public schools, institutions in lower income areas miss out on more experienced teachers, who are most likely to get better pay elsewhere. Students are also not getting adequate money on a per pupil basis. While Epstein said that experienced teachers aren't the only issue, the unfair treatment is a call for concern.
She said, "Lower paid teachers can also be highly effective, but those schools should get more per-pupil-money to provide other services. Poor districts are funded on lower levels than richer districts."
Officials from CAP said that more on racial disparities in public school funding will be released later this year by the U.S. Department of Education's Phase II of its Civil Rights Data Collection. For the first time, the data from that report will reveal school-level expenditure information.