NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Poorer Schools Not Getting Fair Share of Funding

December 8, 2011

Loopholes in federal education law have allowed districts to funnel more state and local money to wealthy schools at the expense of their low-income counterparts, according to a new report released by the Education Department.  Districts are required to maintain financial parity between their schools by federal law to prevent such a phenomenon.  However, the loophole that is currently being exploited allows districts to exclude teacher salaries from calculations, says the Washington Times.

  • More than 40 percent of low-income schools don't get their "fair share," the report says, despite federal requirements that districts spend "comparable" amounts of money at poorer schools eligible for Title 1 funding.
  • Poor schools that are underfunded often attempt to make up the budget gap by reducing programs and benefits for disabled or disadvantaged children.
  • The average district could fix the problem by redirecting about 1 percent of annual spending, the report states, though such a change would mean a reduction in funds for wealthier schools in a district.

Activists who recognize the lack of equality that is currently created by the exploitation of the loophole have called on Congress to redefine the accounting standards.  Such a bill has been created in the Senate, and it would force schools to include teacher salary in their financial breakdowns.

The end result, it is hoped, is that the current disparities between wealthy schools and poor ones will be eliminated.  Currently, affluent schools are able to pay higher wages for teachers, allowing them to attract high-quality veteran teachers that deliver a superior education for their students.  Meanwhile, younger teachers with less experience are forced to seek employment at the poorer schools that have lower wages.  Critics complain that this experience exodus from poor schools to wealthy exacerbates education gaps.

Source: Ben Wolfgang, "Poorer Schools Not Getting Fair Share of Funding," Washington Times, November 30, 2011.

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