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School Funding Inequalities Pathfinder

by Alpha Group

Introduction and Scope Note:

The state of our public schools mirrors that of our nation--the lower socioeconomic areas have inadequate funding for their schools, making them inadequate. The areas that are more financially secure have adequate funding--currently collected from property tax--and these schools are therefore exceptional. For students from lower socioeconomic levels, the insufficient schools keep their cycle continuous. These students have a right to be afforded the opportunity to break out and receive an equal education.
This pathfinder raises questions, discusses difficulties, and offers solutions to arm educators, parents, and concerned citizens with information to combat school funding inequalities. Topics to be addressed include: the factors that create inequalities, the responsibilities of state governments to provide equality, alternatives to the current situation, and moral and ethical implications of the inequality.

General Key Words:

Educational Equity (Finance)
Educational Equalization
Education and State
Educational Opportunities
Disadvantaged Schools
Discrimination in Education
Educational Finance
Funding Formulas
Foundation Programs
Equalization Aid

Socioeconomic Inequality

What Are the Moral and Ethical Implications of School Funding Inequality?


Education Policy Blog

[CS] This "multiblog" provides posts written about the ways that educational foundations can inform educational policy and practice. The blog is written by a group of people who are interested in the state of education today, and who bring to this interest a set of perspectives and tools developed in the disciplines known as the "foundations" of education: philosophy, history, curriculum theory, sociology, economics, and psychology. It includes posts written on education inequality and the socioeconomic divide in schools.

Smart Brief

[CS] This blog collects articles and posts from various media outlets on many educational topics including "Achievement Gap" which includes many writings on the issues of socioeconomic inequalities in American schools.


Lee, Valerie E and Burkam, David T. Inequality at the Starting Gate: Social Background Differences in Achievement as Children Begin School.
Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2002.

[CS] This book shows that inequalities in children's cognitive abilities are substantial from the beginning, with disadvantaged children starting kindergarten with significantly lower cognitive skills than their more advantaged counterparts. These same disadvantaged children are then placed in low-resource schools, magnifying the initial inequality.
Available from the Economic Policy Institute.

Johnson, Dale D., Johnson, Bonnie, Farenga, Stephen J., and Ness, Daniel. Stop High-Stakes Testing: An Appeal to America's Conscience. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007.

[CS] This book argues that closing America's achievement gap cannot be accomplished until equality gaps in school, home, and neighborhood are addressed and actions are taken to close them. It discusses the problems with basing school funding on the results of standardized tests that low-income and minority students are at a disadvantage when taking.
Available at Amazon.

Kozol, Jonathan. The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. New York: Crown Publishers, 2005.

[CS] This book examines what Kozol terms "the resegregation of public schools" in America. To conduct his research, Kozol visited 60 public schools in 11 different states over a five year period (2000-2005). He found the worst segregation rates since Brown v. Board of Education: nationwide, nearly three quarters of black and Latino students attend schools where their fellow classmates are predominantly minority students, more than two million black students attend schools that are 99-100% non-white, and in numerous cities Chicago, Washington D.C., and Detroit, for instance-minorities constitute between 90 and 95% of all public school students. Because racially isolated schools tend to appear in pockets of concentrated poverty, the students this book focuses on also fall far below federal poverty guidelines.
Available at Amazon.

Journal Articles

Edelman, Marian Wright. Jones, James M. Separate and Unequal: America's Children, Race, and Poverty. Future of Children. v14 n2 p134-137 Sum 2004.

In this article Edelman argues that the United States is the richest nation with the highest number of children living below the poverty level. These children are being disadvantaged in a myriad of ways, but it is a stark contrast within the school system, where the economic inequality is resulting in low-income students ending up in prison with almost the same certainty as high-income students going to college. This educational inequity could and should be rectified with immediate action.

Gorski, Paul. The Myth of the "Culture of Poverty." Educational Leadership (April 2008) 65.7: 32-36.
[CS] Gorski argues that some of the causes for the achievement gap between students from high-class and low-class families are caused by well meaning teachers and administrators who buy into the "culture of poverty" ideology. He discusses the challenges and stumbling blocks of children from low income families and what can be done within the school system to alleviate these stresses and inequalities.

Online Sources

Gamoran, Adam. What Will Decrease Educational Inequality? Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

[CS] Article discusses causes and possible solutions to inequality in schools caused by economic factors. Researcher Adam Gamoran says that reducing gaps in student achievement in the coming century will depend on preserving policies that emphasize reducing inequality and on developing new initiatives.

What Ways Are There to Correct School Funding (Distribution Inequalities)?

Journal Articles and Reports

Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Fund the Child: Tackling Inequity and Antiquity in School Finance. June 2006.

A report by a non-profit organization that identifies the problems with the current inequalities with school funding in detail. The report proposes to transform the school funding system by using weighted student funding. The report details how this plan would be implemented.

Toutkoushian, Robert K. and Michael, Robert S. What is the Complexity Index? Education Policy Brief (Winter 2007) 5.2.

This article explains and questions the current method of funding schools, specifically in Indiana. The authors offer ways to change the formula used to distribute the funding. Included in the article, are the policy perspectives of key players in the Indiana government and education system.

Education Alternatives for Low Income Students: Vouchers, Charter, Cyber


American Federation of Teachers. Charter Schools. Weblog Entry. AFT Hot Topics. May 6, 2008.

AFT is a teacher's union. In this blog entry, the writers describe charter schools and supports them. The entry also lists several standards that charter school should strive for in order to maximize their effectiveness and success. The entry is in favor of charter schools that give teachers an active role.

American Federation of Teachers.
The Many Names of School Vouchers. Weblog Entry. AFT Hot Topics. March 2001.

AFT is a teacher's union. In this blog entry, the writers define the different terms used to discuss school vouchers, including private school and low income private school vouchers, tuition tax credits and education savings accounts. Since this is a teacher's union, strong opinions are expressed regarding these programs.

Teacherken. A Different Approach to Schools. Weblog Entry. Education Policy Blog. June 16, 2008.

This entry discusses the alternatives to the public school system. The examples provided are effective options currently offered in Minnesota that give parents more of a choice in where to send their children to school. There is also a link to the Minnesota website where greater detail on all the options is provided.

Journal Articles

Ellis, Kathleen. Cyber Charter Schools. Educational Horizons (Spring 2008).

Ellis explains the history of charter schools and the evolution of cyber schools, or virtual schools, as a descendant of charter schools. She proposes ways to fund and maintain cyber schools. Issues concerning cyber schools are explained, such as use by home-schooled children because they are funded by the government, whereas homeschooling is not.

Fundraising and Advertising

Journal Articles and Reports

Molnar, Alex. Virtually Everywhere: Marketing to Children in America's Schools. Report of Commercial Trends in Schools (September 2004).

The report includes the explanations of various commercial programs currently being used in schools in exchange for corporate funding. These practices include sponsorships,l exclusivity agreements, incentive programs, fundraising and advertisements. The report discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the practices.

Krueger, Jon.  Controlling Your School's Fundraising Noise. Principal (September/October 2007) 87.1.

This article is geared toward the principal's perspective. It discusses the benefits of fundraising, including the statistical proof.  The authors describes the roles of all involved in the fundraising activities and provides tips on ensuring successful programs.

What are the Responsibilities of State Governments to Provide an Equitable Education to All Students?


Yinger, John. Helping Children Left Behind. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004.

[BB] Based on the Federal mandate that no child should be left behind, this essay collection looks at first the technical reasons why inequities exist, followed by various states' education funding reform measures. One focus of the book is to explore why equalized funding has left student performance disparities in these areas largely the same as before reform efforts were undertaken. States profiled include Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Texas, and Vermont.
Available from

Walker, Elaine M. Educational Adequacy and the Courts: a Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2005.

[BB] A comprehensive volume on school funding inequities, covering the ideological backgrounds, case studies of litigation throughout the U.S., efforts to establish educational adequacy, legislative reform outcomes based on these formulas as expressed in a number of states including New Jersey, the historical background on the role of states in education, and the impact of all this on schools, including class sizes, etc.
Available through Rutgers University libraries.

West, Martin R. and Paul E. Peterson, eds. School Money Trials: The Legal Pursuit of Educational Adequacy. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2007.

Contains a collection of essays each by a different author in the field. Topics of essays include various states' efforts to equalize education, the move toward determining "adequacy" in education and the difficulty of doing so, the impacts of educational reform on states' fiscal policies, the impact of the accountability movement on educational equalization efforts.
Available through Rutgers University libraries.


Journal of Education Finance. University of Illinois Press.

[BB] Published Quarterly. Available through the ERIC database. Contains research and articles on issues of public school financing and measures to promote equality.

Peabody Journal of Education. Routledge, in cooperation with the Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.

[BB] Published Quarterly. Current issue freely accessible through their Web site; archived articles through the ERIC database. Contains articles on the broad topics of education and social and organizational factors that impact educational institutions.

Journal & Newspaper Articles

Arensen, Karen W. "Focus on School Adequacy Is Now Key to Aid Cases." New York Times 13 Jan. 2001.

[BB] Published the week the case was won,
this article reports on the successful lawsuit by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which won additional state money for New York City schools based not on the argument that school funding was inequitable but that it was inadequate and violated the state's constitution guaranteeing a "sound, basic education" and that since the school system consists overwhelmingly of minority students, this was a violation of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Costrell, Robert. "Check the Facts: Equity v. Equity." Education Next. 5.3
(Summer 2005).

[BB] Compares the state-to-state equity comparison reports of two different research reports: Education Week's "Quality Counts" and the Education Trust's "The Funding Gap," finding that the same state can be cast as highly equitable by one agency and highly inequitable by the other. Details how states' efforts to adjust for inequalities make calculating equity difficult, and why the argument has shifted from equity to adequacy. New Jersey's 1998 Abbott v. Burke case and the state's ensuing funding proposals are mentioned.

Jacobson, Linda. "States May See Fiscal Squeeze on Education." Education Week. 27.17 (09 Jan. 2008): 1-16.

Describes several states' difficulties this year in trying to balance their promises to fund educational programs with decreased revenues due to the downturn in the economy and the housing market as well as pressure from taxpayers to not increase taxes. States focused on include California, New Jersey, and Florida.

Available through EBSCO's Academic Search Premier database.

Web Sites

Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc.

[BB] The official site of the non-profit organization dedicated to school funding reform in New York State. This is the entity that successfully won the lawsuit on behalf of the New York City school system to bring a greater share of the State's education aid to New York City and Long Island. See especially the site's pages titled "Legislation" to read about the New York State Legislature's recently enacted Education Budget and Reform Act that resulted from the CFE's suit. The "Our Litigation" page contains a subtopic with a "Year-by-Year Chronology" that details the entire history.

State of New Jersey Department of Education. "Abbott v. Burke Decisions."

This Web page collects links to and summarizes the New Jersey Supreme Court cases and decisions in setting up Abbott districts and determining how they will be financed. Summaries of decisions provide concise yet detailed accounts of the actions the State had to take to follow through on the educational reform required as a result of the litigation.

General Resources:


Rothstein, Richard. Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap. New York: Teachers College Press, 2004.

[CS] This book goes in depth upon the issues of class and racial divides on funding of educational programs for students and the points touched on in Rothstein's article in Educational Leadership (see below).
Available from the Economic Policy Institute.

Journal Articles

Darling-Hammond, Linda and Diane Friedlaender. Creating Excellent and Equitable Schools. Educational Leadership (May 2008) 65.8.

[CS, SD]
This article describes a study of success stories of students from low income areas who have excelled by attending alternatives schools to public schools. The study looked at five of these alternative schools and describes the policies in place or needed to help the school continue to succeed.

Rothstein, Richard. Whose Problem Is Poverty? Educational Leadership (April 2007) 65.7.

[CS, SD]
This article confirms the inequalities of funding and quality of performance in low socioeconomic and high socioeconomic schools and offers suggestions on how to improve academics for low income students including after-school and medical care and student integration with higher quality schools to end the continuous cycle.

All web links were checked and current July 7-13, 2008