School Districts That Serve Students of Color Receive Significantly Less Funding
Updated data from The Education Trust identifies school funding gaps within states and between districts and schools
WASHINGTON – Across the country, districts with the most Black, Latino, and Native students receive substantially less state and local revenue — as much as $2,700 per student — less than districts with the fewest students of color. In a district with 5,000 students, this means $13.5 million in missing resources.
In an updated analysis, “Equal Is Not Good Enough” and an interactive data tool, The Education Trust identifies where states fail to provide fair funding to the districts educating the most students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and English learners. For the first time, the data tool includes newly available school-by-school spending data for schools in each district, with contextual information to gauge whether schools that serve more students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, or English learners are spending more than other schools in the district.
The report’s findings point to the urgent need for fair resource allocation, as the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that Black and Latino students experienced larger-than-average dips on fourth grade tests, widening already significant test score gaps compared to White and Asian American students. Gaps on the NAEP tests for Black and Latino students in eighth grade, as well as between low- versus middle- and high-income students in both fourth and eighth grades, remained significant.
“Money matters, and how much a school has affects student outcomes. Yet, school districts and schools that serve large populations of students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and English learners continue to receive less funding,” said Ivy Morgan, director, P-12 data and analytics at Ed Trust. “This data identifies inequities in state and local funding between districts, and, using newly available data, helps us make meaningful comparisons about how funding and other important school resources are being allocated across schools in a district.”
Among Ed Trust’s findings:
- Across the country, districts with the most students of color on average receive substantially less (16%) state and local revenue than districts with the fewest students of color, equating to approximately $13.5 million for a 5,000-student district
- The districts with the most English learners receive 14% less state and local revenue, compared with districts with the fewest English learners. That leaves districts with higher needs for resources — including bilingual educators and instructional materials – with $2,200 less per student than districts with lower needs
- High-poverty districts receive on average 5% less (about $800 per student) state and local revenue than low-poverty districts. There are 37 states where districts that serve the highest concentrations of students from low-income backgrounds are not receiving substantially more funding than their more affluent counterparts
“Our shared goal must be to prepare the nation’s students, regardless of their race or background, for future success and careers,” said Denise Forte, CEO of The Education Trust. “This analysis confirms what we already know: Students of color and students from low-income backgrounds continue to be short-changed.”
“Inequities in funding are foundational to inequities in student experiences. We shouldn’t be surprised that students who attend underfunded schools don’t perform as well as their peers on national and state assessments,” Forte continued. “State and district leaders must take proactive steps to address longstanding inequities in their school funding systems to close state and local funding gaps and they must invest in solutions to the unfinished learning students are experiencing due to systemic underfunding.”
The lack of adequate funding in schools that serve high percentages of students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and English learners can prevent school communities from investing in proven solutions, such as extended learning time and targeted intensive tutoring, to help better student outcomes. Furthermore, teacher turnover, which is higher in under-resourced schools, prevents students from building strong relationships with teachers, which is also shown to improve student outcomes. Previous Ed Trust research has shown that Black and Latino students receive instruction from novice teachers at higher rates than their White peers.
“Equal Is Not Good Enough,” updates Funding Gaps 2018, which found “devastatingly large” funding gaps in some states but also that many states defy traditional patterns of inequity. The new report looks at patterns across and within states, for specific student groups to reveal where inequities persist. To analyze the state of funding equity across the U.S. and within each state, Ed Trust used data on state and local revenues from the U.S. Census Bureau’s school district finance survey as well as newly available data on spending in all schools.
The report, “Equal Is Not Good Enough,” the State of Funding Equity data tool, along with additional information on The State of Funding Equity data tool, a technical appendix, and a guide for advocates are available at: https://edtrust.org/resource/equal-is-not-good-enough/.