This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
A national report released Wednesday showed that far fewer dollars are spent per student in schools with predominantly Black and Latino enrollments, and that staffing those schools with less experienced teachers accounts for much of the spending disparity.
Federal policy allows this disparity to happen by letting districts budget for individual schools by using an average teacher salary for the entire district instead of the actual salaries of teachers in each building, the report said. Overwhelmingly, less-experienced teachers work in schools serving poor students of color compared to schools serving White students.
The report highlighted that there are considerable differences within districts as well as between high-spending and low-spending districts.
Within most big districts, some schools receive more funds than others, and not because those schools have greater needs, according to the report. Ary Spatig-Amerikaner, the report’s author, said that "federal policy is allowing and in fact encouraging districts to shortchange students of color." The so-called "comparable loophole" requires districts to use average rather than actual salaries in calculating spending for federal aid purposes.
By analyzing data that just became available this year, Spatig-Amerikaner found that schools where 90 percent of the students are White spend $733 more per student than schools where 90 percent of the students are of color. She said that 40 percent of this differential is due to disparities within districts rather than disparities between districts.
Given persistent academic achievement gaps among different ethnic groups, and between better-off and low-income students, "It doesn’t make any sense to be spending so much less on schools where there is such a high concentration of students of color," she said.
The report says that the United States has the most inequitable system for funding education of any developed country. Fattah has long argued that funding disparities are the biggest cause of eduational inequities and achievement gaps. He has introduced legislation that would change federal policy to close the "comparability loophole."
The study adds to the evidence that "young people of color and poor kids in general are shortchanged by the way we fund schools," said Fattah in a press briefing. ‘One thing we shouldn’t be doing is having the students who need the most help being provided the least resources."