Washington, D.C.– High-poverty schools in California receive far less money than wealthier schools in the same districts. In fact, a 10 percent increase in the rate of student poverty in a California public school is associated with a $411 drop in average teacher salary after controlling for school and district characteristics.
These stark inequities have long been hidden within school and district budgets, but they are finally coming to light as part of a new, groundbreaking report called "Comparable, Schmomparable: Evidence of Inequity in the Allocation of Funds for Teacher Salary Within California’s Public School Districts" by Raegen Miller, Associate Director for Education Research at the Center for American Progress. His study finds evidence of substantial and pervasive gaps between the average teacher salary in high-poverty schools and low-poverty schools within California’s public school districts.
Miller used newly available data from 1,692 California public schools throughout the state, but was able to hone in on some of the larger districts. In Los Angeles Unified, the gap in average salary between high-poverty and low-poverty elementary schools is $954, a difference of $59 per student. In San Diego Unified, the analogous gap is $6,766, a difference of $417 per student. In Oakland Unified, it’s $6,906, a difference of $429 per student. And in Long Beach Unified, it’s $11,270, a difference of $694 per student. There’s something more than a fluke of sampling going on here. In fact, such within-district inequity is as easy to explain as it is troubling.
The bottom line is that high-poverty schools tend to be staffed by teachers with less experience than low-poverty schools. Yet school budgets and financial reports pretend that all teachers within a school district earn the same salary, thus concealing that high-poverty schools are often shortchanged when it comes to financial resources devoted to teacher salary. President Barack Obama’s blueprint for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act proposes to address inequity hidden by the fog of averages.
Since 2005, California schools have been required by law to post actual expenditures on their accountability report cards. In the coming months, Miller and other researchers will be able to conduct such studies in other states, because the U.S. Department of Education is set to soon release the results of a little publicized but important reporting requirement of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: a school-by-school list of expenditures. Bipartisan support of this manner of reporting is one theme of a second paper in which John Affeldt and Guillermo Mayer of Public Advocates Inc. tell the story of the motivation, passage, and enforcement of Senate Bill 687.
Read full report, Comparable, Schmomparable: Evidence of Inequity in the Allocation of Funds for Teacher Salary Within California’s Public School Districts, here.
Read full report, Lifting the Fog of Averages, Enacting and Implementing California’s Requirement to Report Actual Per Pupil Expenditures School by School, here.
Raegen Miller está disponible para brindar análisis en español sobre este tema. Si interesado, favor de comunicarse con Raúl Arce-Contreras al firstname.lastname@example.org o 202.478.5318.