Study: Education funding should reflect racial disparities

By: - February 28, 2023 4:50 am

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A national study of education funding found money for low-income students and students of color, including in Ohio, should see significant increases to make up for disparities in their educational experience.

The study by the National Education Policy Center looked at funding levels across the country from 2006 to 2018, which suggested “the higher-poverty schools attended by Black and Hispanic students are not funded at sufficient levels to account for the opportunity gaps related to racialized poverty in the U.S.”

“The average Black student attends a school where 62% of the students qualify for free or reduced-priced meals,” the study, conducted by Syracuse University researchers, found.

Ohio had its own share of problems with funding 72 high-poverty districts during that time period, according to the study. The NEPC study cited three other studies in showing that “despite higher levels of per-pupil funding, schools with larger concentrations of non-white and low-income students have less qualified teachers” and a further need for funding.

Using Ohio’s current funding system, previous studies cited by the NEPC said funding provided to high-poverty schools “is insufficient to address the additional cost of education in those schools.”

The state is in the midst of discussions about what funding should look like in the state, as the state budget is negotiated and multiple bills propose systems to fund public schools based on the real cost per pupil and, alternatively, a system where funding is provided on a student-to-student basis.

Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens has said the Fair School Funding Plan and the so-called “backpack bill” are both priorities for the GOP majority, though he has not provided an explanation as to how both would be funded.

Complicating matters is a proposal by the GOP to change taxing in the state, which analysis has shown may cause the state to lose more than $1 billion meant to go to schools and local governments.

Some state legislators and private school voucher program supporters say the state funding problems could be remedied by allowing students to choose private school options. Public school advocates who are suing to stop the state’s voucher program and its expansion say the concept of “school choice” is causing segregation in some districts.

The national study found this could be a reason for a decline in gaps in exposure to poverty for students of color. While the rate of racial gaps declined between 2006 and 2012, researchers said it’s likely not because these students are attending schools with fewer low-income classmates.

“Rather, the gaps shrank because white students started attending schools with higher concentrations of low-income white classmates,” the study stated.

The results of the study found “high levels of racial segregation across schools” and “the lack of political will to adequately fund high-need districts and schools.”

To bring the education of students of color up to the level of other students, the NEPC said per-pupil spending would need to increase substantially for Black and Hispanic students.

“To provide an even educational playing field between Black and White students, per-pupil spending would have to increase by 25% for Black students,” researchers stated.



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.