Tag Archives: Equity

Education funding lawsuits against states on the rise

25 Jan

Moi has often said in posts at the blog that the next great civil rights struggle will involve access for ALL children to a good basic education. Sabra Bireda has written a report from the Center for American Progress, Funding Education Equitably

The old axiom that the rich get richer certainly plays out in the American classroom—often to the detriment of achieving academic success. Data on intradistrict funding inequities in many large school districts confirm what most would guess—high-poverty schools actually receive less money per pupil than more affluent schools.1 These funding inequities have real repercussions for the quality of education offered at high-poverty schools and a district’s ability to overcome the achievement gap between groups of students defined by family income or ethnicity.

The source of these funding inequities is not a deliberate scheme designed to steer more state and local funds to affluent schools. Rather it is often the result of an accumulation of higher-paid, more senior teachers working in low-poverty schools. High-poverty schools typically employ less-experienced, lower-paid teachers, thereby drawing down less of the district’s funds. The imbalance in funding created by this situation can total hundreds of thousands of dollars school by school.2 Archaic budgeting practices that track positions instead of actual school expenditures only serve to reinforce this inequity.

Aside from concerns about the inequitable distribution of veteran and novice teachers across schools, students attending high-poverty schools actually need more funding to achieve at the level of their wealthier counterparts.3 The federal government recognizes this fact with its allocation of federal funds under Title

I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA. One condition of receiving Title I funds is that districts allocate state and local funds equitably to non-Title I and Title I schools before spending federal monies. The “comparability” provision was implemented to ensure that schools spend Title I funds on services meant to enhance educational opportunities for students at high-poverty schools and not to make up for unfair shares of state and local resources stemming from conventional management and budgeting practices.

The comparability provision should be a strong tool to correct the funding disparities created by an inequitable distribution of higher- and lower-paid teachers. But for years, districts have been able to evade true comparability between schools due to a loophole in the law. The loophole allows districts to demonstrate compliance without comparing the amount of actual dollars spent at each school. Instead, districts can show comparability by placing equal numbers of teachers, on a per pupil basis, at high- and low-poverty schools.

If a district does compare per-pupil expenditures, for example, the district can use a district-average teacher salary in calculations in place of actual salaries in school budgets. This common budgeting practice masks significant funding inequities. Under the current provision, districts can continue to receive Title I money even as their most high-poverty schools are deprived of fair shares of local and state funds.

The issues brought out by Bireda’s report are just one of a host of reasons why there must be equitable education funding.

Sean Cavanagh reports in the Education Week article, Lawsuits Say States Fail to Meet K-12 Funding Duties:

Even as they struggle to climb out of deep financial holes, states are facing lawsuits that contend they don’t meet their constitutions’ requirements to provide sufficient funding to districts and fail to provide resources for disadvantaged schools and student populations.

Ongoing or recently decided legal battles in Colorado, Texas, Washington state, and elsewhere underscore the challenges confronting states that have been battered by the extended economic downturn and are only beginning to see their revenues improve. The cases also highlight the political and ideological divides over school funding in many states, with some governors and lawmakers choosing to balance budgets by making deep cuts in spending—including for K-12—rather than raise taxes.

One of the more dramatic fights is taking shape in Texas, where four separate lawsuits—brought by an assortment of poor, middle-income, and wealthy districts, along with advocacy groups—have been challenging different aspects of the school finance system. Those cases are playing out in the shadow of deep cuts, more than $5 billion by some estimates, that lawmakers imposed last year on the state’s schools—reductions that school officials say have laid bare the flaws in the current system.

Although the outcomes of lawsuits in a number of states are not likely to be known for some time, the cases could result in courts’ directing legislatures to make fixes to school finance systems, as was the case in Washington state….

At least a dozen states are facing lawsuits that challenge some aspects of their funding systems, estimates Mr. Rebell, who is now the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, at Teachers College, Columbia University, a nonprofit organization that advocates for fair funding across districts….

Risky Cuts

States may be especially vulnerable if they have made budget-related cuts, such as reducing instructional time, that courts believe disproportionately affect disadvantaged students, said James W. Guthrie, a senior fellow at the George W. Bush Institute, located in Dallas at the former president’s center. He expects the number of school finance lawsuits to increase as states struggle financially…

In Washington, that state’s supreme court ruled this month that the state is not living up to school funding requirements in its constitution. It directed the legislature to correct the situation over time, and it said it would monitor its work.

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, has said she agrees with the court that the state must revamp its funding system. Changes are crucial, given recent, deep cuts to K-12 funding, said the governor’s spokeswoman, Karina Shagren. “She’s always said that the first dollars she gets go to education.”

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/01/18/17finance_ep.h31.html?tkn=RPLFPmDPczvaOiPOI3pQu1h8jTMR7SG1FrRU&intc=es

Here are some resources from The National Education Access Network:

Educational Inequity and Inadequacy

Resources on Inequity and Inadequacy in America’s Schools

More than 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, there remain enormous inequities and inadequacies in the resources and funding provided to America’s schools. These inequities and inadequacies tend to favor wealthier, suburban school districts and often prevent students in urban areas, students from low-income backgrounds, and students from minority backgrounds from having an equal and meanginful educational opportunity. Here are some resources that outline these problems.

In May 2002, Michael A. Rebell testified before United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions during their hearing entitled “America’s Schools: Providing Equal Opportunity or Still Separate and Unequal.” His full testimony (PDF) provides a wealth of information on school funding inequities and inadequacies.

Issue Area Resources:

Funding: The Education Trust publishes a report every year entitled “The Funding Gap.” Here is the latest report, “The Funding Gap: 2005” (PDF).

Teacher Quality: The Education Trust published a report in June 2006 on the gap in teaching quality between higher- and lower-income districts entitled, “Teaching Inequality” (PDF).

Facilities:

Litigation-related Resources:

There are many cases from state courts where the court decision lists the ways in which education funding is inadequate.

For detailed background on the “adequacy” movement, read Courts and Kids: Pursuing Educational Equity through the State Courts (University of Chicago Press, 2009) by Michael A. Rebell.

For a more detailed historical background on school funding “adequacy” lawsuits, read “Education Adequacy, Democracy, and the Courts” (PDF), by Michael A. Rebell.

The first major school funding “adequacy” case is the 1989 Rose case from Kentucky. It is the “classic” ruling citing school funding inadequacies: Full Text of Decision | Background

Other major decisions include:

Other good sources include:

Last updated April 2010

All children have a right to a good basic education.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

The next great civil rights struggle: Disparity in education funding

2 Dec

Plessy v. Ferguson established the principle of “separate but equal” in race issues. Brown v. Board of Education which overturned the principle of “separate but equal.” would not have been necessary, but for Plessy. See also, the history of Brown v. Board of Education

If one believes that all children, regardless of that child’s status have a right to a good basic education and that society must fund and implement policies, which support this principle. Then, one must discuss the issue of equity in education. Because of the segregation, which resulted after Plessy, most folks focus their analysis of Brown almost solely on race. The issue of equity was just as important. The equity issue was explained in terms of unequal resources and unequal access to education.

People tend to cluster in neighborhoods based upon class as much as race. Good teachers tend to gravitate toward neighborhoods where they are paid well and students come from families who mirror their personal backgrounds and values. Good teachers make a difference in a child’s life. One of the difficulties in busing to achieve equity in education is that neighborhoods tend to be segregated by class as well as race. People often make sacrifices to move into neighborhoods they perceive mirror their values. That is why there must be good schools in all segments of the city and there must be good schools in all parts of this state. A good education should not depend upon one’s class or status.

I know that the lawyers in Brown were told that lawsuits were futile and that the legislatures would address the issue of segregation eventually when the public was ready. Meanwhile, several generations of African Americans waited for people to come around and say the Constitution applied to us as well. Generations of African Americans suffered in inferior schools. This state cannot sacrifice the lives of children by not addressing the issue of equity in school funding in a timely manner.

The next huge case, like Brown, will be about equity in education funding. It may not come this year or the next year. It, like Brown, may come several years after a Plessy. It will come. Equity in education funding is the civil rights issue of this century.

Sabra Bireda has a report from the Center for American Progress,Funding Education Equitably

The old axiom that the rich get richer certainly plays out in the American classroom—often to the detriment of achieving academic success. Data on intradistrict funding inequities in many large school districts confirm

what most would guess—high-poverty schools actually receive less money per pupil than more affluent schools.1 These funding inequities have real repercussions for the quality of education offered at high-poverty schools and a district’s ability to overcome the achievement gap between groups of students defined by family income or ethnicity.

The source of these funding inequities is not a deliberate scheme designed to steer more state and local funds to affluent schools. Rather it is often the result of an accumulation of higher-paid, more senior teachers working in low-poverty schools. High-poverty schools typically employ less-experienced, lower-paid teachers, thereby drawing down less of the district’s funds. The imbalance in funding created by this situation can total hundreds of thousands of dollars school by school.2 Archaic budgeting practices that track positions instead of actual school expenditures only serve to reinforce this inequity.

Bireda’s findings are supported by a U.S. Department of Education (Education Department) report.

In the report, Comparability of State and Local Expenditures Among Schools Within Districts: A Report From the Study of School-Level Expenditures, the Education Department finds:

For the study, Education Department researchers analyzed new school-level spending and teacher salary data submitted by more than 13,000 school districts as required by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. This school level expenditure data was made available for the first time ever in this data collection.

Using the data from the ARRA collection, Department staff analyzed the impact and feasibility of making this change to Title I comparability. That policy brief finds that:

  • Fixing the comparability provision is feasible. As many as 28 percent of Title I districts would be out of compliance with reformed comparability provisions. But compliance for those districts is not as costly as some might think—fixing it would cost only 1 percent to 4 percent of their total school-level expenditures on average.
  • Fixing the comparability provision would have a large impact. The benefit to low-spending Title I schools would be significant, as their expenditures would increase by 4 percent to 15 percent. And the low-spending schools that would benefit have much higher poverty rates than other schools in their districts.

Joy Resmovits discusses the report at Huffington Post.

In the article, School Districts Shortchange Low-Income Schools: Report, Resmovits reports:

It’s been long suspected that schools serving low-income students receive less money to pay their teachers than those in nearby affluent schools. Now there’s data from the U.S. Department of Education to back that claim up.

“The facts are out there like they’ve never been before,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

And the spending disparity affects teacher quality: As veteran teachers move to more affluent schools that can pay them more, students in poorer schools are more frequently taught by unseasoned teachers with little classroom experience.

In the the 13,000 districts surveyed, which encompass 82,000 of the nation’s 100,000 schools, more state and local money went to teacher salaries in high-income schools than in the district schools serving poor children, according to the new data. And 40 percent of low-income schools spent less on school employees in the 2008-2009 school year than other well-off schools within their districts.

“Low-income students need extra support and resources to succeed, but in far too many places, policies for assigning teachers and allocating resources are perpetuating the problem rather than solving it,” Duncan said.

According to the report, between 18 and 28 percent of low-income schools aren’t adequately staffed to meet their students’ needs. The report, titled “Comparability of State and Local Expenditures Among Schools Within Districts,” used data collected from 13,000 school districts that had to self-report information on how they spend money to receive 2009 stimulus dollars.

The report attributes the gap to a loophole in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the sweeping federal law on public education passed in 1965. That law created a special class of schools known as Title I that explicitly serve poorer students. The law aimed to ensure that those schools were appropriately funded.

But a loophole in the law’s reporting system that aimed to prevent school districts from using Title I dollars to plug overall budget gaps has allowed them to do just that. The law “often results in low-income schools subsidizing their high-income counterparts,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), the former Denver schools superintendent, said in a Wednesday statement.

“Too many disadvantaged children living below the poverty line are getting short-changed now,” Duncan said. Duncan called attention to a legislative fix his department proposed that’s included in a stalled draft of the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind Act ….

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/01/school-funding_n_1122298.html?1322748997&ref=education

Poorer schools have been subsidizing their more affluent counterparts.

See: 3rd world America: The link between poverty and education https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/3rd-world-america-the-link-between-poverty-and-education/

Race, class, and education in America https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/race-class-and-education-in-america/

Citation:

“Comparability of State and Local Expenditures Among Schools Within Districts: A Report From the Study of School-Level Expenditures” and “The Potential Impact of Revising the Title I Comparability Requirement to Focus on School-Level Expenditures” are available from the Department’s website at: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/opepd/ppss/reports.html#title. The ARRA data set of school-level expenditures also is available on the same webpage. This data can be used to further explore disparities in school-level expenditures, the impact of district budgeting practices, and Title I comparability reform.

Related Resources:

Related Resources icon School-level expenditures report Related Resources icon Press call Related Resources icon Transcript of press call

All children have a right to a good basic education.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©