Advocating for a truly equitable education system


By David Griffith

Predominately white school districts receive $23 billion more than school districts with a predominantly non-white student population nationally, according to a recent report from advocacy group EdBuild.

The report highlights a deeply troubling fact in America’s education system: schools that enroll mostly low-income and minority students often receive less funding than schools with mostly white and affluent students. This is largely because the method the American education system uses to fund its schools—a combination of state and local revenue—is inherently inequitable.

These disparities in school funding are the very reason for federal assistance to K-12 schools, including the Title I program. Another program, IDEA, was created to help school districts offset the additional cost of educating students with disabilities.

But funding for Title I and IDEA has stagnated. In 2017 dollars, Title I funding declined $1.3 billion between FY10 and FY17 while IDEA funding decreased by $1 billion in that same time frame, according to the Committee for Education Funding. Worse, at least 23 states provided less formula funding to schools in the 2017 school year than before the start of the Great Recession. In other words, there is less money being invested in education overall and there are unacceptable disparities in funding among school districts which result in our most vulnerable students getting even less still.

This lack of attention – and lack of commitment – to funding schools equitably is consistent with the ongoing national debate in education surrounding accountability. In the new Every Student Succeeds Act era, the focus has been on what the expectations are for students to be ready for college and careers and how we can measure our schools’ progress in helping them meet this goal. There has been little attention paid to how schools can support students or what resources schools need to help students achieve these higher standards.

ASCD seeks to address these challenges through our advocacy efforts and Whole Child initiative. We are committed to redefining what student success is to a broader meaning in which students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. It is vital that greater investments be made in schools to help fulfill the needs of every student. We continue to make these arguments with federal and state policymakers.

At the federal level and in partnership with our affiliates at the state level, we will continue to call on education decisionmakers to provide the funding necessary to meet all mandates they impose and to increase resources to meet the needs of every student—especially the socioeconomically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities—and to support a well-rounded education, personalized learning, and high-quality teachers and principals.

In practical dollar terms, this has meant pressing for increases for a well-rounded education (Title IV), which has seen a 175 percent increase to $1.1 billion, preserving the $2.1 billion earmarked for professional development (Title II) that the Trump administration has targeted for elimination. We have also continued to push for increased investments in Title I and IDEA and have seen increases that are beginning to make up for lost ground. These successes have resulted in tens of thousands of students getting a more personalized education, enhanced services, and improved learning conditions.

ASCD will continue to fight for the resources educators need to best serve their students. We have made great strides in recent years, but more progress is needed. We will remain outspoken advocates for a truly equitable education system.

Learn more about becoming an ASCD Advocate today.