Teachers Paid Less in Higher-Minority Schools

By Stephen Sawchuk — September 27, 2011 3 min read
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In many ethnically diverse school districts across the country, teachers in schools that serve the top quintile of African-American and Latino students are paid significantly less—approximately $2,500 per year—than the average teacher in such districts, according to an analysis released today by the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights.

The analysis is based on data from the OCR’s Civil Rights Data Collection from 2009-10. More than 7,000 districts are included in this survey. For this particular analysis, the Education Department crunched data from some 2,200 districts in which more than 20 percent, but less than 80 percent of enrolled students, are African-American or Latino. Finally, the analysis compared the salaries of teachers in schools with the top quintile of enrolled African-American and Latino students, to the average teacher salary in the district.

Fifty-nine percent of the districts studied showed these spending disparities. And because teacher salaries make up about 60 percent or so of the typical district’s budget, these data demonstrate some fairly hefty gaps in spending between schools that serve more students of color and those that serve fewer such students.

“America has been battling inequity in education for decades but these data show that we cannot let up,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “Children who need the most too often get the least. It’s a civil rights issue, an economic security issue, and a moral issue.”

Some background for you: The federal economic-stimulus bill required districts receiving state stabilization funding to report school-level expenditures, including teacher salaries. Then, the office for civil rightsintegrated some of these new reporting requirements into a much broader and more-regular data collection.

It’s so broad, in fact, that the Education Department is releasing it in two stages. Part 1, as colleague Nirvi Shah reported earlier this year, dealt mainly with inequitable access to experienced teachers, advanced courses, and other resources.

The Part 2 data, on which this analysis was conducted (conveniently in time for Duncan’s appearance on NBC’s Education Nation) won’t be released in full until sometime in mid-November.

It will be interesting to have a more fine-grained look at these data and see what else shows up. Off the top of my head, I’d love to know whether there’s a particular characteristic that links these districts with these spending patterns, for instance, perhaps in terms of how they are governed, or where they’re located, or how many schools they oversee.

Part 2 will also include some first-ever data on such facts as:

• Number of students who passed Algebra I in grades 7-8, 9-10, or 11-12;
• Full-time-equivalent teachers absent more than 10 school days;
• “Zero-tolerance” expulsion;
• Instances of harassment and bullying;
• Instances of restraint and seclusion; and
• Total personnel salaries, instructional-staff salaries, teacher salaries, and nonpersonnel salaries.

Now, you may be thinking about this analysis: “Very interesting, whatever does this mean for policy?” As it turns out, quite a lot.

Various advocates have been pushing for changes to the “comparability” testin the federal Title I program for disadvantaged students. Basically, to get Title I, districts have to show that local spending between high- and low-poverty schools is equal before those districts get their Title I allocations.

But they’re currently allowed to exempt salary differentials from the calculation, in essence papering over these pay disparities. So expect groups like the Education Trust and Center for American Progress, which have conducted a lot of analyses on this topic, to seize on these findings to press their case to change the Title I rules.

And, surprise—the Education Department proposed tackling this in its blueprintfor reauthorizing the NCLB law, too.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.