Saturday, July 4, 2015

Efforts to Improve Teacher Equity Hinge on Funding Equity

As federal and state debates heat up over the inequities of quality teachers and the need for more regulation to ensure every child is served by a well-qualified teacher, Bruce Baker reminds us that regulations without equitable funding (e.g., greater funding for students and schools with higher needs) will fall short.

About those Ed Regs for Improving Teacher Equity: A preview of new (old) findings | School Finance 101

As states roll out their plans, this topic is again getting some ed media attention, most of which (if not all) misses entirely the point that regulatory pressure passed by states along to local public districts will achieve little or nothing in equalizing the distribution of teacher/teaching/instructional resources across schools and children statewide. That is, without any attention to inter-district disparities in school funding, which as I have noted, have only continued to get worse. Bottom line, you can’t fix cross-school, statewide disparities in resources without fixing between district disparities in funding. 
As a basis by which inequality should be determined, the administration places significant emphasis on variations in concentrations of children in poverty across schools. That is, resources should be equitably distributed across children by their economic status.[5] Just what “equity” means under the circumstances is left to states to articulate in their proposals, but the language of the regulations suggests that, at the very least, children in high poverty settings should not be subjected to fewer total resources or teachers with lesser qualifications – that there should not be a negative correlation between poverty concentrations and resources. 
Put simply, the amount of funding available to any school district determines the amount it can spend on its schools and, in turn, the combination of wage competitiveness and staffing ratios the district can provide. Those with more can spend more; those without can’t. Where inter-district inequities persist – especially where districts serving needier student populations have substantially lower spending – so too will inequities in the various indicators suggested for review by the U.S. Department of Education. Regulatory intervention without more substantive changes to state school finance systems will likely achieve little. So too will legal challenges to statutes and regulations which fail to correct inter-district disparities in available funding.