Premature celebrations: The persistence of inter-district funding disparities

Bruce Baker, Kevin G. Welner

Abstract


Two interlocking claims are being increasing made around school finance: that states have largely met their obligations to resolve disparities between local public school districts and that the bulk of remaining disparities are those that persist within school districts. These local decisions are described as irrational and unfair school district practices in the allocation of resources between individual district schools. In this article, we accept the basic contention of within-district inequities. But we begin with a critique of the empirical basis for the claims that within-district disparities are the dominant form of persistent disparities in school finance, finding that claims to this effect are largely based on one or a handful of deeply flawed analyses. Next, we present empirical analysis, using national data, of 16-year trends (1990 to 2005) and recent patterns (2005 to 2007) of between-district disparities, finding that state efforts to resolve between-district disparities are generally incomplete and inadequate and that in some states, between-district disparities have actually increased over time.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v18n9.2010

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