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May 3, 2015

In Past Decade, Funding Gap Between Rich and Poor Schools Grew 44 Percent

Rich schools are getting richer, and poor schools are getting poorer. That's the gist of new data released by the US Department of Education, highlighting just how inequitably we fund our nation's public schools. The worst offender might be Pennslyvannia, with an astonishing 33% gap between its richest and poorest districts, but throughout the U.S. there is now an average funding gap of $1,500 per student.

The Hechinger Report has crunched the numbers to reveal that over the past decade there's been an astonishing 44% increase in the funding gap between schools in rich and poor communities.

Part of the problem arises from how schools are funded. Across the country, local property taxes form the basis for a district's budget, supplemented to varying degrees by state (and to a smaller extent, federal) funding. As Jill Barshay explains in her column for the Hechinger Report, schools relying most on local funding have the biggest disparities. Meanwhile, federal funds, which are intended as a supplement to help support students with the highest needs, are instead being used to barely equalize these local and state-level disparities. As a result, high-needs students often don't receive the extra resources they actually require to succeed.

This school funding system is also impacted by state-level developments. For example, the budget cuts many states made during the 2008 recession included decreases in aid to school districts, and so far states have been slow to restore their support for schools to pre-recession levels. Without adequate state funding, districts are required to rely more on inadequate and inequitable local property taxes – hence Pennslyvania's particularly high 33% gap, for example.

Check some of the interactive maps from The Hechinger Report below, or read the full article here.

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