America’s Most Financially Disadvantaged School Districts and How They Got that Way – How State and Local Governance Causes School Funding Disparities

Source: Bruce D. Baker, Center for American Progress, July 2014

From the summary:
….First, this report lays out a typology of conditions that lead to severe fiscal disadvantage for local public school systems. It then provides examples of states, state policy conditions, and specific local public school districts identified as being severely financially disadvantaged. The causes of fiscal disadvantage are classified as follows:
• Type 1. Savage inequalities: How persistent disparities in local taxable property wealth continue to undermine equity in American education
• Type 2. Stealth inequalities: How dysfunctional, poorly designed, state school finance formulas fail to correct, and sometimes reinforce, disparities
• Type 3. Some politics is still local: How local tax policy and budgeting decisions may undermine state equity objectives
• Type 4. Not-so-blurred lines: How small, segregated enclaves embedded in population-dense metropolitan areas reinforce fiscal disparities
• Type 5. Shift happens: How the changing demography of exurban and smaller city America leads to emerging fiscal disadvantage

The report concludes by providing policy recommendations. Approaches to reforming aid should address the following issues:
• Organizational concerns. ….
• State policy leverage over local fiscal decisions. ….
• More-nuanced measures of local capacity and need in state aid formulas. ….
• Illogical state aid programs. …

While substantively resolving any one of these problems would move the ball forward on equity, definitively resolving all four is required for making consistent progress across all states and local public school districts. Resolving these persistent disparities between districts remains a prerequisite condition for resolving internal disparities in the most fiscally deprived school districts. Doing so also serves as a prerequisite condition to resolve disparities in essential resources, including teaching quality, class sizes, and access to deep and broad curricular opportunities for all children regardless of the school or district they attend.
Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card
Source: Education Law Center of New Jersey, 2014