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Report reveals $ 23 billion funding gap between white and non-white school districts

New report reveals that school districts that primarily serve students of color received $ 23 billion less than most white school districts in the United States, although they serve the same number of students .

The report, released this week by EdBuild, a non-profit organization, highlights the problem of school segregation, which persists long after Brown v. Board of Education and that has been the subject of lawsuits in New Jersey states in Minnesota. The estimate also came from the fact that teachers from across the country demonstrated and went on strike to ask for more funding for public schools.

"You can say that these dollars are making a difference," said Rebecca Sibilia, executive director of EdBuild, a non-partisan organization dedicated to improving how states fund public education.

"Enter a non-white rural community," she said. "Enter a non-white urban school district. You can see what it means in terms of how much it has added over time. "

The report focused on the boundaries of school districts, which could disassociate communities and isolate the wealthier districts to finance their schools with local property tax revenues, while the poorest districts are unable to generate the same. same income.

"Because schools depend heavily on local taxes, building borders around small, wealthy communities benefits the few at the expense of many," the report says.

The report, which focused on the funding of school districts by states and local governments in the 2015-2016 school year, found that more than half of the country's school children were in racially concentrated districts, where more than 75% of students were white or not.

On average, non-white districts received about $ 2,200 less per pupil than non-white districts, according to the report.

School districts are usually funded at the local level, but states are supposed to "fill the gaps" so that communities are funded equally, despite disparities in wealth, Sibilia said. The report showed that in many states, "they do not respect their own obligations," she said.

Differences in funding translate into the classroom, where underfunded communities often use old and worn textbooks and have less access to computers, said Francesca López, associate dean of the University of California College of Education. 39; Arizona.

"As a parent and researcher, I can tell you that when I go to a school district in one of these low-funding areas, it's a stark contrast," said Dr. López. "These are basic rights to education, but they look like commodities in comparison. It's dramatic.

The report identified some states, such as New Jersey, as "the worst offenders". In New Jersey, which divides students into more than 500 districts, non-white majority districts receive about $ 3,400 less per student than predominantly white districts, the report said.

A spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Education said that he had not seen the report and that he could not comment immediately.

Arizona also had one of the most radical funding differences among the states listed in the report. Ms. López stated that, as it stands, "demarcation lines contribute enormously because of gerrymandering, segregation and zoning".

But she added that the situation in Arizona was exacerbated by a new type of "white leakage" because of the popularity of charter schools and open enrollment, a policy that allows parents to ask their children to attend schools outside the district. In Arizona, funding usually follows the student rather than staying in the district.

"This further reduces funding for those districts that were already at a disadvantage in the first place," said Dr. López.

Richie Taylor, a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Education, said the ministry was aware of the disparities existing in the state but did not believe that the gap was " as blatant as the report suggested.

"Equity and justice are a major concern for us and we are willing to explore various options to solve these problems," he said in a statement.

But he said the state legislature should take steps to shore up school districts, which school boards generally oppose.

"It is far from certain that consolidation would help here," he said. "What will help is more funding for education in all areas," emphasizing the fight against inequality.

But Sibilia said broader and more inclusive school district boundaries could help alleviate some of the disparities in wealth in many places in the United States.

"If you have a suburb or a rich subdivision that has very valuable homes, it's a subdivision that will be able to collect a significant amount of money from their property taxes," he said. she declared. "If you have a huge shopping center in a suburb and a school district where they can keep their sales taxes, it will also play a role in the ability to spread that money."

But for now, Ms. Sibilia said, there are about 180 school districts across the country, spread across a larger school district – a figure that shows how some school districts have become their own enclaves.

"In education," she said, "it is a public good and people have to share their wealth with their neighbors."

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