Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Reality of School Funding

In debates about education, you constantly hear the refrain that poor districts get less money than rich districts.

Although it's possible to cherry-pick exceptions, that claim is false. Here's a quote from Eric Hanushek & Alfred Lindseth, "Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses" (Princeton Univ. Press, 2009):
It remains a common misperception that school districts with large numbers of poor children have significantly less money per pupil spent on them than other districts. While that may have been true at points in the past, for the last decade or more school districts serving the most disadvantaged populations, on average, have more to spend on each student than more economically advantaged districts. As shown in figure 3.6, by 2004 the poorest districts -- those in the highest 20 percent of the poverty distribution . . . -- spent as much on average as the wealthiest 20 percent of districts, and significantly more than those districts in the middle three quintiles.
From the National Center for Education Statistics, here's a useful chart (click to enlarge):



Blogger Paul Gowder said...

What about foundations set up by parents in wealthy school districts? (See the beginning of this article.)

4:53 PM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

Good question. I'm pretty sure no one keeps track of that kind of thing on a nationwide scale (and if you thought campaign finance reform was controversial, wait until someone tries to make every parent who has a bake sale register with the government).

Notice that the article lists the largest funds in the state of California, and the fourth largest fund was contributing a mere $982 per pupil per year at one school. So once you get past the fourth most privileged school in California (out of nearly 10,000 public schools in that state alone), I'm not sure that there are really that many per-pupil dollars at stake. But I certainly could be wrong.

Plus, I wonder about how the money is spent . . . the article has a picture of long rows of shiny PCs and Macs. That's nice, but so far there isn't much evidence that technology has any benefit to academic achievement on average.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

One of the authors of the Brookings study __Vouchers and the Provision of Public Services__ made the same point (poor minority districts get more money per pupil than suburban White districts), and wrote that this has been the case since 1990 or so. NCES statistical tables from the __Digest of Education Statistics__, "Selected characteristics of districts over 15,000 enrollment" (or 20,000 enrollment, depending on which year of the __Digest..._ you use) and State-level funding correlated with percent minority enrollment and with mean district size or percent enrollment in districts over 20,000, indicate that State funds (as opposed to local property taxes) raise urban district funding over suburban or rural district funding.

I made this case in 1997 on Google groups: misc.education

"Incidentally, the correlation ($/pupil, %minority enrollment) is positive
in every State with 5 or more school districts over 20,000. The myth of
the under-funded inner-city minority school district is a lie. See NCES
Digest of Education Statistics, Table 91."

It's very old news, but the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's media shills persist in misinforming the public.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

The discussion of which districts get more money distracts from the more important point: almost all districts in the US get more than enough money. We dispute the difference between solid gold toilet seats and solid platinum toilet seats. It does not take 12 years at $12,000 per pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom.

Please read this one page Marvin Minsky comment on school.

Please read this article on artificially extended adolescence by Ted Kolderie.

Most of the K-12 curriculum is make-work for dues-paying menbers of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel. State (government, generally) provision of History and Civics instruction is a threat to democracy, just as State operation of newspapers would be (is, in totalitarian countries).

8:51 AM  

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