Texas school funding is getting a close look – and potentially major changes – from lawmakers in Austin this legislative session. And a new report from the nonprofit EdBuild has a striking number to add to that conversation: $23 billion.
That's how much more money it found predominantly white school districts across the country have compared to school districts that enroll mostly students of color.
While the national gap was about $2,200 per student, Texas fared slightly better. EdBuild found that in Texas, white school districts get $830 more per student than nonwhite districts. One cause of that discrepancy is that a lot of school funding comes from local property taxes.
The report also highlights how geography has kept school funding local. While the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools are unconstitutional, the nation's highest court later ruled in another case that school systems weren't responsible for desegregating across district boundaries.
"So long as we link opportunity to gerrymandered borders and school funding to local wealth, we will never have a fair education system," EdBuild CEO Rebecca Sibilia said in a statement. "The wrenching reality is that, from any angle, America is investing billions more in the futures of white children."
The nonprofit found that even in high poverty school districts, those with more students of color still receive less money.
Sibilia said Texas tries to bridge the gap by sharing money from rich districts with poor ones through what's called "Robin Hood," but the state "just can't keep up with the difference."
"So we end up about $300 difference in terms of the advantage that even low-income white communities receive," she said. "If we can't desegregate in terms of our students, we can at least smooth out the difference in terms of where wealth resides and give students of color an equal shot to those living in racially concentrated white areas."
States with significant racial disparities in school funding include California, Colorado, New Jersey, New York and Oklahoma.
Sibilia said one challenge in closing the funding gaps is that there are usually more state lawmakers representing smaller, concentrated white school districts, even though segregated districts typically have more students.
"The numbers of voices really matters in the capitol and, unfortunately, those voices are getting muffled by the sheer number of concentrated white school districts that tend to be much, much smaller," Sibilia said.