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New Report Finds Students of Color Are Being Shortchanged: Schools Spend $334 More on White Students than on Students of Color

Written by Featured Organization on 27 August 2012.

Washington, D.C. — On a press call today with Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), the Center for American Progress unveiled a new report that explores the racial inequities in state and local funding that persist in our nation's schools. According to the study, called "Unequal Education,” schools across the nation continue to treat students of color differently than their white peers because of a federal loophole that permits districts to spend significantly less on schools with large populations of students of color.

Though nearly 60 years ago the landmark ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education overturned the concept that “separate” education could be “equal,” today almost 40 percent of minority students attend segregated schools where more than 90 percent of students are nonwhite. Likewise, the average white student attends a school where 77 percent of his or her classmates are also white.

"The United States has the most inequitable system for funding its schools of any advanced country, and as this report shows, students of color bear the brunt of that inequity," said Cynthia Brown, Vice President for Education Policy at the Center for American Progress. "Our top priority must be ensuring students of color and all students receive their fair share of resources."

The spending difference between these schools is significant: Mostly white schools spend $733 more per student than mostly nonwhite schools. In fact, based on newly released nationwide data on per-student educational spending, the report finds that:

  • Across the country schools spent $334 more on every white student than on every nonwhite student.
  • Mostly white schools (90 percent or more white) spent $733 more per student than mostly nonwhite schools (90 percent or more nonwhite).
  • The United States spends $293 less per year on students in mostly nonwhite schools than on students in all other schools. That’s 7 percent of the median per-pupil spending.
  • As the number of students of color goes up at a school, the amount of money spent on students goes down: An increase of 10 percent in students of color is associated with a decrease in spending of $75 per student.
  • The so-called comparability loophole in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which requires school districts to provide educational services to their lower-poverty schools that are “comparable” to those provided to the higher-poverty schools, is a major source of educational inequity for both students of color and low-income students.

"Given the fact that Latino students continue to lag behind in almost every indicator of academic success, these funding inequities are simply unacceptable. We can no longer afford to continue to under-invest in students of color if we have any intention of getting out of this educational crisis,” said Erika Beltran, a senior policy analyst at the National Council of La Raza.

To address the serious implications of this funding gap, report author Ary Spatig-Amerikaner recommends gradually closing the comparability loophole—the federal policy that, in exchange for Title I money, is supposed to guard against funding inequities between schools receiving Title I funds and non-Title I schools but often fails in this regard. Under current policy, schools do not report the amount actually spent on teacher salaries at each school; instead, they are required to use the district average teacher salary when calculating school-level comparability between Title I and non-Title I schools. This major exclusion often leads school districts to think they are providing equal funding to high-poverty and low-poverty schools in accordance with Title I when, in fact, they aren’t.

Closing the comparability loophole would mean schools would accurately report overall expenditures for each school, and that local and state funding would be more fairly distributed to high-need schools. While closing the comparability loophole is not a magic bullet, equalizing intradistrict per-pupil spending is a significant step toward fully honoring the intent and spirit of Brown v. Board of Education.

Read the report:

To listen to today's press call, click here.

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