School districts have trouble tracking spending, writes Marguerite Roza in Educational Economics: Where Do School Funds Go? (Urban Institute Press). District averages mask wide variations in the “distribution of experienced teachers, enrichment programs, and social services among schools in the same district.” Some districts spend more per student at schools in affluent neighborhoods than in poor neighborhoods.
School spending has doubled in 30 years in real dollars, Roza points out. It’s impossible to link spending to the district’s priorities if officials don’t know where the money’s going.
Education Trust’s new report, Close the Hidden Funding Gaps in our Schools, calls for rewriting Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to ensure that federal funds for low-income students buys extra help for those students, instead of being used to fill local funding gaps.
For example, in 2007-08, half of New York City’s Title I schools (serving poor children) received less state and local funding than non-Title I schools serving more affluent students.