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Saturday, October 31, 2020

New data lays bare school funding disparities -- within districts, too

New data lays bare school funding disparities -- within districts, too
New data: Even within the same district some wealthy schools get millions more than poor ones
We’ve long known about spending disparities from one district to another; new federally mandated data lays bare within-district inequities, too

At Ronald D. O’Neal Elementary School, in Elgin, Illinois, none of the third graders could read and write at grade level according to state tests in 2019. Nearly 90 percent of the school population is considered low-income and nearly three-quarters are labeled English learners, meaning that the state language arts test assesses their reading and writing ability in a language they’re still trying to learn.

Just nine miles away sits Centennial Elementary School, where 73 percent of third graders met grade-level standards on that same test. A fifth of Centennial’s student body is considered low-income, and 17 percent get extra supports as they learn English.

The state has celebrated Centennial for “exemplary academic performance.” It designates O’Neal as a school in need of targeted assistance. But despite its low performance and its students’ needs, O’Neal received $9,094 per student in 2019 in state and local funding compared to Centennial’s $10,559. If O’Neal had received Centennial’s per-pupil funding, it would have meant an extra $789,905 in its budget: Money that could have covered more — or more experienced — teachers, social workers or home-school liaisons, or paid for new programs to address students’ academic and nonacademic needs.

While wealthier school districts routinely spend significantly more money to run their public schools, the disparity between Centennial and O’Neal can’t be attributed to the relative wealth in their communities. Both schools are part of a single district, U-46, Illinois’ second largest.

Kids who need more support to overcome barriers to academic achievement are routinely shortchanged. U-46 was one of 53 districts across the United States that spent a statistically significant amount less state and local money on high-poverty schools than on lower-poverty schools, according to a new Hechinger Report analysis of how districts disburse funding. In another 263 districts, the level of spending on each school had little to no connection to the number of students in poverty, despite the higher needs often present in low-income schools. It’s the first CONTINUE READING: New data lays bare school funding disparities -- within districts, too