Equality for None: Public School Education Finance

I challenge you all today to venture toward new discoveries as you ride, walk, cycle, or brazenly skateboard to a few public schools within your community. Beyond the overwhelmingly barren architecture most buildings display to the public, most would assume there is nothing visually odd about the settings. But the figurative blood that runs through the bodies differs. Some are on the verge of going into shock, while others possess platelet-rich plasma and function quite well.

Few of you would imagine that their lies a level of social and economic inequality that has garnished little outcry from the media, governmental entities, and public. Indeed, this pursuit of true social and economic justice has gained few attendants. The inequality that I speak of is disguised within complicated fiscal formulas and legislation few could comprehend without finding themselves in need of an anti-depressive. Through these means, existing public school education finance apportionment systems have allowed for the existence of legal systems of oppression that target racially marginalized populations. This is explicitly clear when observing the effects of public school apportionment systems on Black students.

During the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education Tokepa (1954), Chief Justice Earl Warren once argued that:

Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education in our democratic society. It is required for the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today, it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

What his statement forgets to mention, notwithstanding the final decision of the courts, principles for educational rights are in fact limited. Many are actually unaware that the decision of Brown has never been interpreted as embracing protections regarding educational funding inequalities. This overlooked detail has historically had an adverse effect upon Black students since the 20th century. Currently, the effects have become direr.

But what else would one expect within a country that is founded on racial injustice and isolation. I am not alone, for the works of prominent legal and race scholars, such as Derrick Bell, Joe Feagin, and Albert Memmi mirror my argument. All mentioned would maintain that the overall stance of the Brown, “equality for all,” is impossible to achieve. Why? One must realize that all U.S. institutions are profoundly designed to only benefit the White majority. Consequently, they majority simultaneously deny opportunities and economic power to racially marginalized populations occupying “so-called” inferior positions upon the White fashioned racial hierarchy. “What did you say? What about all of the legislation that history has shown that was created by Whites for the benefit of Blacks?” People such as Derrick Bell would argue that a majority of White initiatives that seek to address racial justice are only brought forward if said action serves the economic and social interests of Whites. In regard to the argument, it is important to remember that in order to protect White interests, the barring of groups such as Blacks through the means of systemic oppression is compulsory. Within this country, oppression is preserved through U.S. constitutional protections and laws. This is indeed mirrored within the public school financial apportionment structures.

In order to understand this injustice, it is important to know that all U.S. states’ legislatures authorize and control public education. Under state funding formulas (which vary), states deliver predetermined funds to schools. Through state formulas and schemes, they determine the level of financial need regarding the maintenance of individual elementary and secondary schools. In addition to the menial contribution from the federal government, schools rely heavily on state and local revenues. All states have provided 17% and 50% to public schools since the 1930s. Therefore, the majority of funds are derived from local contributions. These local contributions are determined by local property taxes formulas. Further, the establishment of utilizing local property taxation by the state voters is as old as the common school movement.

This reliance upon property taxes has historically handicapped Black communities. But with the occurrence of white flight in the 1960s (due to school busing initiatives and the push for integration), Black students began to feel upon their proverbial little chins the snapping of a one-two punch combination. Racial isolation and the economic hardship of the poor within urban settings consequently lowered property value. As urban settings became less populated with Whites and middle class Blacks, community urban education settings began to house predominately Black and Brown students. These schools began to show a heavy reliance upon federal and state allocations in order to fill the missing property tax gap. Today, the country has shown a decline in spending dedicated to public education. This has also trickled down and affected special education students as well. Some states (Iowa and Kansas) have even gone as far to seek federal and state permission (waivers) to cut special education funding from their state budgets. These cuts drastically affect Black students disproportionately. Specifically, in comparisons to White students, Blacks are the overwhelming population in segregated special education classrooms.

Today within the 21st century, Whites strive to rid themselves of sharing school monies with people of color. This is illustrated by the actions of wealthy Whites in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. They currently seek to succeed from attending schools with their poor Black neighbors (four out of five live in poverty). They have stated that they seek to create a separate school district that will be funded by their own, unshared wealthy property taxes. This is also seen within states such as Texas, Alabama, and Georgia. Once again, this is nothing new for America. After the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, White upper class southerners abandoned their public schools and established private white schools. In the north, racially like-minded parents followed suit and did the same. This is an illustration of an old game upon a new playing field.

Specific examples of inequality can be collected though the National Center for Education Statistics. Through these means, one can find countless examples of blatant financial and racial inequality. For example, in Illinois, wealthier school districts on average receive as much as three times the revenue for per-pupil expenses than poor school districts. In 2013, school districts such as Rondout Elementary District 72 and East Aurora Unit District 131 have a property tax collection level of $30,381 and $2,816 per student respectively. Mostly White school districts such as Glencoe, Skokie, Glencoe and La Grange gain more local funds that that which is observed within the almost all Black districts of W. Harvey-Dixmoor, Park Forest, and CCSD 168. This trend is observed with Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Further, the Texas Civil Rights Project in 2012 reported that inequitable funding was actually endorsed by the Austin Independent School District (AISD). The report stated, “AISD allows and supports the private subsidization of higher-income (or “higher-equity”) schools, sometimes by as much as $1,000/student more than the amount of funds that support students in lower-income (or “lower-equity”) schools.”

If one believes in Derrick Bell’s argument, in order for change to occur, a proposed change to the manner schools are financed must be arranged in a way that illustrates a threat of some sort to White interests due to the increasing international complex and competing world economy. Maybe. Maybe we all should just stand up and challenge the machine and seek justice for all our children.


    • Karl Dittman

      You are assuming that a publicly operated educational system CAN be fair when it cannot. 20 years ago, during my education, preference was given to minority students from 1st grade all the way to law school. It continues today. That unfair advantage given to unqualified black students only served to diminish the accomplishments of deserving black students and elevate the legitimacy of white students. Everybody knows white people earned their degrees, but some blacks were given diplomas without legitimately earning them. It seems that more effort to give black students handouts only serves to further the belief that they are unworthy and illegitimate.
      The reality of education is that both parents must have a belief and work ethic toward educating their own child. We moved to an area with good schools for the benefit of our children. We also dedicate two hours a day to teach our children. The ability to make those choices came only after many hard years of struggle and saving. The opportunity of any parents, of any race, culture or creed, to do the same, exists for now. And even if all schools were made exactly the same, I would find a private school so that my child would get the best teaching, no matter the sacrifice. It is impossible to make all things equal. There will always be inequity and the only choice is to decide how you can elevate your childs opportunities.

      • Joe

        Of course, whites have had four centuries of huge affirmative action programs called the Homestead Act, the GI Bill and other Vet programs after WW2, and many other programs. Whites have gotten 99 percent of the preferences over the last 400 years of this country’s history. Public education (with blacks marginalized in inferior poorly funded schools, and segregated by law) created much of the white middle class. We had extreme racial oppression in this country from 1619 to 1969! and have only been theoretically free since 1969. Past unjust privileges and opportunities over the past 350 years for whites accounts for most white families’ success today. Lots of data on that. I suggest you do some research and reading, and do not just accept conventional white racial framing of these matters. Data counts…. See my book, Racist America, for details.

  1. Karl Dittman

    You are assuming much more than the data could ever support. It is more likely that you are racially biased (racist) against whites. It has become the unmentionable, but obvious fact in our society that it is somehow acceptable for blacks to be racists. Perhaps modern white racists take consolation in the fact that racism limits a black persons chance of success.

    • Joe

      It is interesting that you,unlike most of those researchers who post on this site, do not offer any data for your contentions. What, for example, is your definition of “racist”? What do you mean by “racial bias” and can you demonstrate that with data from this site? Are you aware that you are thinking about the world from an uncritical white racial framing of society that has been drilled into your head over the years? Have you tried to think about the world from, for example, the view of black person whose ancestors were enslaved for the fist 60 percent of this country’s history, then Jim Crowed for the next 24 percent? I suggest you read some books, like my Racist American (3e) to catch up on the real history and data on this country’s white-imposed systemic racism. Whites need to be focused on for making this country’s have a 340 year history of extreme racial oppression, followed by extensive everyday discrimination today. Whites are unjustly enriched over the centuries, and that is the main reason black folks today are unjustly impoverished. The data are in Racist America. Your argument would be more convincing if you did some study and research, as I have now since 1962.

  2. Karl Dittman

    Racism is to prejudge someone based on their skin color. I find that modern racists, of any color, tend to take factual data and “interpret” it to match their racial bias. I know you are blinded by your racial bias, because you have assumed that I am uneducated, uninformed and inexperienced “typical” white man. Not only do I have real life experiences worldwide, I read the data from contemporary studies. But you cannot accept my observations, because they don’t match your prejudice.
    Tufts recently conducted another study to measure racism among blacks and whites. They found that racism towards blacks has been almost been eliminated. Racism towards whites has grown tremendously. In the 1950 study there was almost no racism towards whites, but a lot towards blacks. So inferring that racism is a guiding force off academic performance today is really unfounded.
    Poor black students do face an incredibly tough challenge to succeed. But so do poor white students, or asian, or hispanic,….. As I originally stated, their success will largely influenced by close family efforts and ethics. Everyone is made differently, some will be good students ans some not. Even among wealthy black families, the students dont do as well as whites or asians. It does not mean there is some discriminatory conspiracy in place. It just means that sitting in school is not an intrinsic strength.

    • Joe

      Actually, I am evaluating only what you allege in your uninformed, white framed comments, not by who you are. For example, you have provided no citations for your studies, just allegations and very vague references. I’ll match my 65 research books and 200+ research articles on these issues against you or any other white researcher or analyst in the US, for research credentials on studying racism issues. I have done this major research hundreds of times since 1965. You provide me with your research credentials and list of major research studies you have done on these issues you are raising — and your arguments will hold some water. As they are , you are just giving us the standard white racist framing of these issues that one can find on many white-racist-framed websites. I challenge you to read my third edition of Racist America (or 2e of The White Racial Frame) and explore the hundreds of studies I cite and examine and get back to me — that is, whoever you are, become informed on these issues.

    • Joe

      BTW, to illustrate your lack of knowledge, “racism” is a term that the German researcher Magnus Hirschfeld coined for institutionalized and ideological racism, not for just for prejudice. Some folks in the US prefer the weaker definition, for obvious reasons. “Anyone can be prejudiced,” is the standard white argument — in order to ignore our 400+ years of institutionalized and systemic white racism. There is NO systemic black racism in the US>…..

  3. Karl Dittman

    You are so blinded by your hatred of white people that you cannot even bear to acknowledge the facts presented to you. I chose to define racism as “to prejudge someone based on the color of their skin” because researchers and Phd’s could not agree on a definition of race, even obscure, vague german researchers. The term I used was chosen after much research. Also, if you even posess the ability to pay attention, you would have noticed that I said “All people are prejudiced”, not “Anyone, can be prejudiced”. And since when are there “white” or “black” arguments and comments? Since when did ideas and comments also become one race or the other????
    There is no difference between discussing ideas with you or the KKK. You both have well researched data supporting your beliefs and the right to exist, but thank goodness few people will join yours or their belief system. Fortunately the truth will reign supreme, eventually.
    All the data I have referenced is easily attainable. I even attempted to reference data that a Phd could acquire, but if you like, I can have my middle school aged son provide you any references you desire.
    And for the record, I have just read the summaries of your recent book. Racist America could be renamed “Can you help a brother out?”. Your story is not new, every street hustler around the world plays the same con. You’ve just added Phd to the request in order to up the game. I hardly think that your books could qualify you to be an expert. Write something, preferably non-fiction, that addresses real issues, that help real people and I would most humbly admire your talents.

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