The equitable education policy arena features two main elements: disrupting the reliance on local property taxes (or more equitably distribute the funds) along with state funding formula reforms; and an increased role for the federal government in education. Policy proposals usually include the following provisions:
- Ensure Equal Access to Core Educational Services – provide equal access to high-quality learning opportunities for all students by linking state funding systems to these costs and monitor the use of funds to ensure that they are put to the best use.
Provide Additional Resources for Low-Income Students – targeting additional funding to the services and programs that are proven to show positive outcomes from low-income students. Funds should not merely address disparities in educational funding between districts, but also be targeted to the students with the greatest needs.
Case for Equity
Education has become one of the best tools we have at our disposal to improve opportunities in America. Yet, across the country, there are huge disparities with respect to the quality of educational systems and individual schools. Children and families encounter a range of barriers to their ability to access quality educational services. These barriers are highest for children and families of color. The most fundamental barrier they face is inadequate funding. Our system of education funding is based on an inherently unfair system that is over-reliant on local property taxes and historically discriminatory funding formulas.
The average white school district receives $2,226 per student more in funding than nonwhite school districts (EdBuild 2019). Even low-income white school districts (that are receiving on average $150 less per student than the national average) receive $1,500 per student more in funding than their comparable low-income districts of color (ibid). This system is a legacy of racial and residential segregation that entrenched itself beginning with Reconstruction and has been exacerbated over the ensuing decades. The nation’s history of racially discriminatory housing finance policy served to further ingrain these disparities. Mostly as a function of court action, several states have been moving towards more equitable systems in the past few decades, but stark disparities still exist.
Return on Investment
Return on Investment for this policy is rated as HIGH due to the evidence showing positive benefits at both the individual and societal levels.
The research base is rated as being HIGH due to the soundness and credibility of the research literature.
State & Local Ease of Implementation
This policy is rated as having a HARD level of implementation difficulty due to the need for coordination across multiple levels of governance, the need for new finance structures/mechanisms, and the high level of political barriers.