In March 2015, the Education Trust, a non-profit advocacy organization, released its recent findings on inequities in school funding. The report, entitled “Funding Gaps 2015,” builds on previous research establishing a relationship between school funding levels and student demographics. Using the most recently available school year data from 2012, the report concludes that, across the nation, the districts with the highest percentage of students in poverty receive about $1,200 less in per pupil funding than the lowest poverty districts. The disparities are more glaring when race is factored into the equation. Here, the report finds that the districts serving the most students of color receive about $2,000 less in per-pupil funding than those districts serving smaller populations of minority children.
The report called out several states for having particularly regressive funding schemes that disadvantaged poor and minority students. For example, in Illinois, the highest poverty school districts receive almost 20 percent less in state and local funding than the wealthiest districts. This is the largest within-state gap of any of the states included in the report. New York has the second most regressive funding scheme, with its poorest districts receiving nearly 10 percent less in funding than the wealthiest districts in the state. Ohio, Minnesota and South Dakota have the most progressive funding schemes, providing their highest poverty districts around 20 percent more in per-pupil funding than their wealthiest districts.
The report also hones in on states’ efforts at equitable funding – i.e., funding that takes into account that it often simply takes more resources to ensure that underprivileged poor students get an adequate education. Using a funding allocation model that accounted for the greater educational needs of low-income students, the researchers concluded that Illinois still has the largest within-state gap, and that it provides its highest poverty districts with about 28% less funding than its wealthy districts. Ohio, Minnesota and South Dakota again have the most progressive funding schemes after taking greater student needs into account, providing their districts serving students with the most educational needs between 7 and 12 percent more in per-pupil funding than their wealthiest districts.
By far, however, the most egregious funding gaps unearthed were race-based. Across the country, school districts serving the highest concentrations of Black, Latino and Native American students receive about $2,000, or 15% less, in funding than those districts that have the lowest concentrations of students of color. According to the authors, the race-based inequities they found were “more prevalent and more substantial” than the poverty-based funding inequities.