The funding of low-income schools: Our current surprising situation is remarkably humbling.
We're being tutored by some of the most disconsolate future experts in all of human post-history. In effect, we're enrolled in one of their most depressing graduate-level courses:
Failed Mental Hygiene 401: The Ways Homo Sapiens "Reasoned"This work is humbling, but can also be startling. These anthropologists' use of the future past tense is a highly unsettling practice.
In recent weeks, these scholars have devoted the bulk of class time to the hapless though instructive ways the new film, Little Women, has been discussed by pseudo-progressives of the current era.
Mordant humor saves the day as these highly credentialed experts discuss this embarrassing topic. Admittedly, the mordant humor is interspersed with the kinds of wails and groans which been unheard since the time of Dante's imagined Inferno.
Whatever! All next week, we'll continue to describe the results of their Little Women punditry findings. Today, though, we'll focus on the gnashing of teeth occasioned by Thursday's New York Times opinion column, The Hidden Inequality in Schools.
The column discussed, or seemed to discuss, a topic which seems important. We read the piece in our hard-copy Times. In print editions, the essay started like this:
AMERIKANER (1/30/20): The Hidden Inequality in SchoolsSo the essay started. We've highlighted its key claim:
Any debate about fairness in school funding has to start with clear data, but it turns out that data can be very hard to find.
Most people understand the inequity of school districts in wealthier areas having more money than those in less affluent communities. Addressing these disparities—across school districts—is important; but just as important, and less understood, is the unfair distribution of resources within school districts.
A rare study of this issue found that at least 4.5 million students from low-income backgrounds are in schools that receive roughly $1,200 less per child each year than wealthier schools in the very same district. In a single school, this shortfall could allow for the addition of 12 counselors, thousands of dollars in bonuses for dozens of teachers who transfer into hard-to-staff subjects and high quality art, music and extracurricular programming.
According to a rare study, "at least 4.5 million students from low-income backgrounds are in schools that receive roughly $1,200 less per child each year than wealthier schools in the very same district."
That's a surprising claim. Why would low-income schools receive less money than higher-income schools in the same school district?
We can't answer that question, but that $1200 per pupil would add up to a lot of money. At least in theory, that money could be put to a wide array of uses in those underfunded, low-income schools.
So the essay began. But how odd!
Though the essay continued for fourteen additional paragraphs, it never identified any school district in which this underfunding occurs or occurred. (Nor did it ever say who conducted the study to which it referred.)
Has any such district ever explained the reasons for this alleged underfunding? We were left without the slightest idea! Strangely, the essay never returned to a discussion of this alleged underfunding at all.
The essay started with a striking claim—millions of low-income kids attend schools which are significantly underfunded as compared with higher-income schools in the same school district.
But that was the end of any such discussion. When the essay finally mentioned a specific school district, we found ourselves pondering this:
AMERIKANER (pghs 10-11): Take, for example, School District U-46 in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. In this district, only 17 percent of the students from low-income families are proficient or above on state tests, compared with 45 percent of the students not from low-income families,When the essay finally discussed a particular school district, a different sin was now alleged. Instead of sending extra funds to its low-income schools, District U-46 is funding all its schools roughly the same!
You might expect that additional dollars are directed toward the schools populated by those students from low-income families. Instead, the new government data shows schools in U-46 receive roughly the same range of funds regardless of how many students are living in poverty.
Why would a newspaper like the Times publish an essay like this? According to future experts, this is pretty much the best our species was wired to do!
"It may be hard to believe that editors at the New York Times couldn't see the problem here," one despondent scholar said, even as he struggled with a classic thousand-yard stare. "But as Professor Harari noted in real time, the species was wired for gossip and fiction—and above all else for repetition, and for moral pretense!"
We've shown you chunks of the maddening text as it appeared in the hard-copy Times. On line, the essay is somewhat longer, and its language is a bit more jumbled. But it does at least identify the source of the "rare study" it cites in its opening paragraphs.
The study was conducted by The Center for American Progress. On line, this link is provided.
The article to which the essay links is now almost five years old. The data on which the article was based came from the 2011-2012 school year.
The article did identify specific school districts which were allegedly underfunding their low-income schools. Here are the article's first two bullet points, exactly as they appeared:
Due to the loophole in federal law, more than 4.5 million low-income students attend inequitably funded Title I schools. In most states, there are tens of thousands of students from low-income households who attend Title I schools that are not funded equitably relative to other schools in their district. See the appendix for state-by-state results.The essay in the Times accurately summarized these claims. But alas! These claims were all built around an alleged "loophole in federal law"—the so-called "compatibility loophole"—which is so poorly described at the start of the article that, truth to tell, we have no idea what the authors are talking about.
These inequitably funded schools receive around $1,200 less per student than comparison schools in their districts. Overall,these schools receive around $668,900 less per year than comparison schools. In Fort Worth, Texas, for example, inequitably funded Title I schools receive around $2,600 less per student.In some districts, the disparities are even wider. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, inequitably funded Title I schools receive around $4,900 less than other schools. These disparities can add up to millions of dollars at the state level. If these gaps were closed, inequitably funded schools in Texas would receive another $1.6 billion annually, and in New Mexico, they would have an additional $65 million. See the appendix for state-by-state results.
(Full disclosure: Down through the years, we've often found that liberal and progressive studies are built on conceptual sleight of hand, intentional or otherwise. We have no idea if that was the case here.)
Are millions of kids attending low-income schools which are seriously underfunded as compared with higher-income schools in their own school district?
In Thursday's Times, an essay started with that claim, but then it abandoned the topic. When we linked to the five-year-old report on which these claims were based, our tutors gnashed their teeth, then told us this:
"Our dearest Rappaccini! Perhaps now you see what we mean!"