Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Public School Spending

A recent action/stunt (depending on your p.o.v.) in the form of a student "strike" took place in the greater Chicago area, attempting to highlight the vast disparity between spending levels, per pupil, in rich versus poor districts. A number of students from a poor urban school were bussed to a wealthy suburban district where they attempted to enroll so that they too might be able to take advantage of that school's "four orchestras, a rowing club, a course in "kinetic wellness," and AP classes in French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Latin, and Chinese" (quote and links from Slatle).

A summary article from the Chicago Tribune can be found here.

While it is amazing that the equal protection clause of the constitution does not seem to apply when it comes to funding our public schools, one other fact leaped out at me too as I read the story (from Chicago Tribune article linked above):

At issue is how much money schools spend per student. In a funding system fueled largely by local property taxes, New Trier Township spent nearly $17,000 per student in 2005-06 and Sunset Ridge spent about $16,000, while Chicago Public Schools spent an estimated $10,400 per pupil.

The vast discrepancy comes from the coupled facts that, in the U.S., local public schools are funded largely through local property taxes and that we tend to live segregated by class (as well as race, ideology, and accent... wait, might be mixing some cause and effect here... oh well). That's not the fact that caught my eye, it was the $10,400 per pupil that the under served students were "striking" about that caught my eye.

In Michigan, local property taxes have been de-emphasized in school funding in order reduce this disparity, and the bulk of school funding comes from the state now and has been for over a decade now. But in order to get parents living more prosperous areas to sign on to the change, the state had to promise to keep some of the disparity intact and fund traditionally richer districts at higher levels than traditionally poorer districts.

Just for fun, I checked the 2008-2009 funding level of the rural school that the Sarcastic Weasel attended: $7316 per pupil.

It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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