As Jill Barshay reports, it’s difficult to accurately calculate the spending gap among schools especially at the state and local level. But the trend is clear:
Poor schools are getting increasingly short-changed by the states and localities that fund them. The richest 25 percent of school districts receive 15.6 percent more funds from state and local governments per student than the poorest 25 percent of school districts, the federal Department of Education pointed out last month (March, 2015). That’s a national funding gap of $1,500 per student, on average, according to the most recent data, from 2011-12. The gap has grown 44 percent since 2001-02, when a student in a rich district had only a 10.8 percent resource advantage over a student in a poor district.
And although all sectors received cuts during the recession, since the recovery, state lawmakers are not restoring the funds to schools, which hurt the poorest students the most.
It’s particularly alarming because, as she points out, education is supposed to be the ticket out of poverty and the grand equalizer.
The growing gap between rich and poor is affecting many aspects of life in the United States, from health to work to home life. Now the one place that’s supposed to give Americans an equal chance at life — the schoolhouse — is becoming increasingly unequal as well. I’ve already documented the startling increase since 2000 in the number of extremely poor schools, where three-fourths of the students or more are poor enough to qualify for free or discounted meals (see here), and I’ve noted the general increase in poverty in all schools here.
Read the full article from the Hechinger Report here.
Why does this matter, aside from obvious moral questions? Here are just a few reasons:
1) It is economically inefficient because demand for goods falls when the masses have less money.
2) It is socially divisive and means people become harder to rule — spelling trouble for democracy or any form of government.
3) The shrinking middle class tends to blame low-income immigrants or foreigners which could result in isolationist policies that, in the end, will probably make the income gap worse.
4) Low-income is bad for mental and physical health, which is having and will continue to have a major social impact.
What can we do about it? For starters, we should at least start talking about the fallacy of the American Dream with our friends, family and colleagues. It may have been true at some point, but it is becoming less and less so. We now know that your parents are the greatest predictor of future success in America. Schooling can make a difference, but not if the funding trends continue!