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Education

New Report Shows Staggering Funding Disparity Between White and Non-White US Schools


Why Global Citizens Should Care
US schools in communities of color are both overcrowded and underfunded. Limiting education access to non-white students perpetuates larger problems of inequality in the country. You can help advocate for education equality by taking action here.

Predominantly white school districts across the US are receiving $23 billion a year more than predominantly non-white school districts, according to a new report from EdBuild.

The nonprofit focuses on education funding and released a new study that shows major disparities between white students and students of color. After studying 13,000 traditional American public school systems, the report found that the average majority-white school district received $13,908 per student in 2016, while districts that mostly educate people of color only received $11,682 per student.

“States have largely failed to keep up with the growing wealth disparities across their communities,” the report said.

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A large part of this disparity is because school funding is tied to local taxes, and white communities tend to have higher incomes and lower rates of poverty.

"So long as we link opportunity to gerrymandered borders and school funding to local wealth, we will never have a fair education system," said Rebecca Sibilia, the chief executive of EdBuild. "The wrenching reality is that, from any ang"le, America is investing billions more in the future of white children."

The study also showed that white districts tend to be smaller. They typically enroll about 1,500 students, which is half the national average. Non-white districts enroll over 10,000 students on average, which is about three times more than the national average.

“Because schools rely heavily on local taxes, drawing borders around small, wealthy communities benefits the few at the detriment of the many,” the report said.

Despite the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, which prohibited school segregation, some have compared the current arrangement of schools to a modern-day form of segregation. Others argue that it is a lingering after-effect of the pre-civil rights era, including Sibilia, who described the inequality as a "vestige of America's segregationist past."

“You can tell these dollars make a difference,” said Sibilia. “Walk into a rural non-white community,” she said. “Walk into an urban non-white school district. You can see what that means in terms of how much that has added up over time."

The largest gap occurred in Arizona, where students in non-white districts received $7,613 less than their white counterparts. 

Read More: Quality education is key to ending poverty

Many teachers have protested against a widespread lack of resources and funding. In April, teachers in Arizona led a strike to protest low wages and cuts to school funding. This walkout was a part of the #RedForEd movement, which has spread to other states like Oklahoma and Colorado.

Over half of all public school students in the country are enrolled in racially concentrated school districts. The study defines largely white or non-white districts in which the school’s student body is at least three-quarters of that racial demographic. 

“This is about overcoming systems of oppression,” said Ary Amerikaner, vice president for P-12 policy, practice, and research at the Education Trust. “School systems have been set up, in many cases very intentionally, to repress students, families, and communities of color. And if today they're not intentionally doing that, they are certainly continuing to do that by under-resourcing them."