‘Equal is not the same as equitable’: New analysis shows large and mid-sized school districts often do not prioritize their highest-need schools for greater funding and experienced educators

by | Mar 15, 2019 | Press Release

New tools at NYSchoolFunding.org enable parents to see how their district funds schools and to directly contact local school officials 

NEW YORK – Large and mid-sized school districts across the state frequently do not provide their highest-need schools with significantly greater levels of resources so that all students receive the support they need to succeed, according to an analysis by The Education Trust–New York—which along with the new data launched an online toolkit so parents can ask their local district officials to improve equity as they develop their budgets for the upcoming school year.

“We know that equal is not the same as equitable,” said Francisco Miguel Araiza, associate director of research and policy for The Education Trust–New York. “This tool empowers parents with information and provides them with a platform to amplify their voice as they work for meaningful change for their children and all children.”

Schools with greater needs require significantly greater funding than other schools, and funding inequity impacts students both across different districts and within the same district. The Ed Trust–NY analysis found that of elementary/middle school budgets in 32 large and mid-sized school districts included in the analysis:

  • 19 school districts (59%) budgeted about the same in their highest-need and lowest-need schools.
  • Six school districts (19%) budgeted at least 5% less in their highest-need schools compared to their lowest-need schools.
  • Only two school districts (6%) budgeted at least 20% more in their highest-need schools compared to their lowest-need schools.

Many school districts also disproportionately assign the newest teachers to the highest-need schools, further driving inequity. Research shows that teacher effectiveness is the most important in-school determinant of student success, and that teachers are generally more effective after they have a few years of experience. In the Ed Trust–NY analysis:

  • 10 school districts (31%) planned to assign approximately the same share of experienced teachers in their highest-need and lowest-need schools.
  • 12 school districts (38%) planned to assign at least 5% fewer experienced teachers to their highest-need schools.

The new analysis uses publicly available data from a state law that required 76 school districts to report their school-level budgets for the 2018-19 school year, for the first time ever.

“While the information in the new state law helps us understand where school districts are directing the significant funding they control, it doesn’t tell us whether the overall level of funding from state and local sources is adequate to provide a quality education, or whether schools are spending the money effectively,” said Araiza. “All of these parts of the puzzle are important to understand whether schools are receiving the resources they need to help students succeed.”

The level of school funding and how those resources are invested play an important role in student success – helping to determine whether students have access to strong educators, enroll in higher-level and advanced courses, are taught using modern textbooks and technology, and have the support of guidance counselors, librarians, and art and music teachers.

At NYSchoolFunding.org parents and users can:

  • See how much funding individual schools receive and how they spend their money;
  • Explore whether school districts are providing the most resources to the schools with the greatest student needs;
  • Learn more about the budget process, including who makes decisions and when they are made;
  • Directly contact their superintendent and school board, asking them to consider these key equity questions when developing this year’s budget: 1) How is the district investing to meet the needs of each school? Is the district planning to invest new funding in an equitable way? How does the district ensure that all students have access to strong educators?

Learn more and explore the data at nyschoolfunding.org.