Separate But Not Equal: Report Finds Majority-White School Districts Received $23B More in Funding Than Nonwhite Ones

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Mostly white school districts received $23 billion more in funding in 2016 than districts that are predominately non–white, even though both groups serve roughly the same number of students, according to a report by research and advocacy group EdBuild.

The report, published Tuesday, found that the gap in funding was due in large part to the school-funding system’s reliance on local property taxes, as reported by The Washington Post. Majority white communities tend to be wealthier, and thus can afford to pay higher property taxes. That, in turn, impacts the local school districts’ ability to raise thousands more in funding.

EdBuild Report
The report found that although nonwhite school districts were receiving more money per student from the state than white districts, the stark funding disparities persisted. (Photo by Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images)

Also, while nonwhite districts received slightly more money per student from the state than given to predominately white districts, it still wasn’t enough to narrow the massive funding disparities in many states.

“States have largely failed to keep up with the growing wealth disparities across their communities,” the report stated. “While we have made some progress on the issue of economic inequality in our schools, we still have a terribly inequitable system.”

For the study, EdBuild examined the nation’s 130,000 traditional public school districts and found about 7,600 where more than 75 percent of students were white, and 1,200 districts where more than 75 percent of students weren’t white. Nonwhite districts also tended to be much larger than the majority white districts, the think tank found, though both groups had nearly the same amount of students.

While nonwhite districts received nearly $54 billion in local tax dollars, which amounts to about 4,500 per student, the white districts, where residents tend to have higher incomes, took in more than $77 billion, or about $7,000 per student, according to the report.

Additionally, states reportedly gave nonwhite districts almost $7,200 per student and white districts $6,900 per student. Yet, the gap in state and local tax dollars added up to nearly $23 billion.

The report not only found that the average nonwhite school district receives $2,226 less than a white school district, but also that poor-white districts receiving less per student than the national average still receive $1,500 more than students in poor-nonwhite school districts.

“Good schools can’t solve structural inequality on their own, but neither can it be solved without them,” researchers wrote. “Without an effective education, our children’s futures are all but guaranteed to succumb to the imposed conditions of their lineage and location.”

“Even after Brown v Board, even after decades of school finance litigation meant to equalize the playing field, and even after accounting for wealth disparities, the wrenching reality endures—the United States still invests significantly more money to educate children in white communities,” it continued.

EdBuild’s analysis didn’t include federal funding, much of which goes to school districts in the nation’s poorest communities.

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