It is a statistical truth that richer schools are given more money, in the US public school system. It’s a cycle of advantage—richer schools attract better, more experienced teachers, who require higher salaries and better facilities, which needs more money, which makes the school richer… and so on and so forth. Teachers in poorly funded schools, schools that receive federal Title I aid, are typically less experienced, which means they are both paid less and less likely to ask for costly equipment.
The result of the cycle is obvious to anyone who looks—poorer schools stay poor, stay unable to attract better teachers, and then the districts look at their poorer performance and see their budget allocations as justified.
In the spring of 2015, Education Secretary John B. King Jr. of the U.S. Department of Education put in for consideration a set of rules to even out those scales, requiring districts to prove that they are spreading their resources fairly.
Opposition came fiercely from two unlikely allies—the Republican party and teachers’ unions. They raised arguments about historically quality schools being stripped of funding and their best teachers. But King Jr. and the Department of Education did not back down.
According to an August 31 statement, the re-written requirements are that districts must prove equal allocation in one of four ways:
1. A weighted formula that takes into account poverty, English-as-a-second-language students, and students with disabilities, calculating exactly what percentage of district funds each school is entitled to.
2. A formula that assigns value to each staff position and non-personnel resource and measures them against the district’s per-pupil expenditure.
3. An alternative, state-approved funds-based test as rigorous as the above two options.
4. A method selected by the district that ensures that per-pupil funding in each Title I school is as much as or more than the average per-pupil funding in non-Title I schools in thee district.
The one note of compromise in the new rules is that it encourages districts to avoid forcing teachers to transfer.
What do you think? Is this a good start to making sure kids from poor areas get an education of equal quality to those from wealthier areas? Do you have any other ideas? Please share your thoughts in the comments.