Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–July 7, 2011. This week the Center for American Progress released a new issue brief that debunks a recent backgrounder by Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation. Richwine’s report, titled “The Myth of Racial Disparities in Public School Financing,” suggests that public education spending is broadly similar across racial and ethnic groups, and it has found a predictably receptive audience in the conservative blogosphere. According to the issue brief’s authors Raegen Miller and Diana Epstein, however, Richwine’s analysis aggregates spending figures to the regional and national level, which obscures disparities within states or within districts.
Miller and Epstein’s state-by-state analysis of district-level data provides fresh evidence of racial disparities in education funding. They find that racial disparities in education spending clearly exist in a host of states, including Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania, where per pupil expenditures for black and Hispanic students hover around 90 percent of those for white students. This finding is a reflection of these states’ regressive funding tendencies, and the fact that people of color tend to be more concentrated in high-poverty districts. The flipside of this disturbing evidence comes from states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey in which high-poverty districts receive greater support from state and local sources than low-poverty districts.
The evidence shows that Richwine’s “backgrounder” for the Heritage Foundation misses the trees for the forest. Meaningful levels of racial disparity clearly exist in the provision of school funds in some states. But that does not mean that states with progressive funding or those exhibiting similar rates of expenditure across racial and ethnic groups are in the clear. A growing body of literature documents funding inequity, including racial disparities, within districts.
Read the full issue brief here (pdf)