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Study Puts Price Tag on School Disparity

"Unequal Education: Federal Loophole Enables Lower Spending on Students of Color"

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Public schools spend, on average, $334 more on white students than on nonwhite students, a new analysis of federal education data reveals.

That per-pupil spending disparity is even greater when comparing schools that are mostly white with those having mostly nonwhite enrollments, according to the report, published this month by the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank. In schools where 90 percent or more of students are white, per-pupil spending was $733 more than in those with 90 percent-plus nonwhite enrollment. One-third of the students in the study attend such racially isolated schools, the report says.

The analysis draws on federal school-level spending data that include actual spending on teacher salaries, a new reporting requirement in the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Ary Spatig-Amerikaner conducted the analysis as part of her graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley. She links the spending imbalances to lower salaries earned by teachers in majority-minority schools, who tend to be less experienced than those in mostly white schools.

The author argues that a flaw in federal education law intended to guard against spending inequities—the so-called "comparability" loophole in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—exacerbates such problems. It directs districts to exclude differences in teacher salaries tied to years of experience when determining if they are providing comparable services to their high- and low-poverty schools.

Vol. 32, Issue 02, Page 4

Published in Print: August 29, 2012, as Study Puts Price Tag on School Disparity
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