In a stunning and disturbing new report highlighting the political malfeasance of elected and appointed leadership across the country, the Education Law Center has identified 47 school districts in 20 states that rank as America’s Most Fiscally Disadvantaged School Districts.
The report identifies Bridgeport, Danbury, New Britain and Waterbury as among the most financially strapped school districts in the nation. Children in these districts are attending schools that are under severe fiscal distress.
While Connecticut ranks as among the wealthiest states in the nation, Connecticut’s failed school funding system leaves many communities without the financial resources they need to ensure that all of the state’s children have access to high quality educational opportunities.
The new report identifies school districts with higher than average student need and lower than average funding.
The Education Law Center explains;
This mix of fiscally disadvantaged school districts arrayed across the country underscore the absence of a coherent and fair approach to financing state public education systems. Many districts – especially urban, inner suburban and rural, serving very high-need student populations – continue to struggle from a lack of sufficient funding, which makes it impossible to provide all students with the opportunity for a high quality education. This does not happen by accident.
Many state school finance systems are not designed based on the actual costs of purchasing the teachers, support staff and other resources to deliver rigorous education standards, including the additional resources necessary to meet pressing needs in the nation’s high poverty schools and districts. As a consequence, some states simply fail to provide sufficient support to address student needs across districts and differences in local fiscal capacity to meet those needs. In other cases, states create aid formulas that measure district need and/or local fiscal capacity imprecisely or inaccurately, with the result that some comparably needy districts are less well-funded than others. Even worse, some states allocate the majority of their aid with little or no sensitivity to either local district need or fiscal capacity.
This list of the most fiscally disadvantaged districts highlights the urgent need for school finance reform in many states. This reform must start with a determination of essential education resources and end with a funding formula that accounts for district poverty concentration and local fiscal capacity. It will require replacing outmoded, arbitrary funding formulas and the historic method of distributing funding based on prior year spending and political, not educational, considerations.
This list also underscores the national imperative for all states to continuously work to ensure that their public education finance systems are meeting the needs of all students and the demands placed on local districts, schools and educators. Some states with deeply regressive funding, such as Illinois, need drastic action to improve. Other states, such as Massachusetts, is on the path to fair funding but has more work to do to ensure all children have the opportunity to succeed.
The ELC concludes;
“These findings again show that Governors and Legislatures in far too many states stubbornly resist investing in K – 12 education so all children have the resources needed to succeed in school,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and a report co-author. “The states with districts on this list chronically underfund their poorest schools, leaving behind thousands of vulnerable children. This is our national hall of shame.”
You can read “America’s Most Fiscally Disadvantaged School Districts” at http://edlawcenter.org/assets/files/pdfs/Newsblasts/Disadvantaged_Districts_Report.pdf