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Richer school districts in 23 states are receiving more local funding than their poorer counterparts

Poor children generally find themselves with heavier needs as opposed to other students when attending school. In 23 states, however, poorer school districts are not getting the money they need to help these students.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that in 23 states, “per-pupil spending” by state and local governments is lower in poor school districts than in rich ones, in some cases as much as 33 percent lower. Nationwide, the average amount spent on students in poor school districts is $9,270 versus $10,721 for students in wealthy districts, based on U.S. Census data released by the National Center for Education Statistics last month.

The state with the largest difference, at 33 percent, is Pennsylvania, followed by Vermont and Missouri, at 18.1 and 17 percent respectively. In contrast, Indiana spends 17.1 percent more on students in poor districts than for those in wealthy ones, and Minnesota, 15.4 percent. Colorado, Iowa and Utah spend essentially the exact same amount per student in both poor and rich districts.

“What it says very clearly is that we have, in many places, school systems that are separate and unequal,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Post. “Money by itself is never the only answer, but giving kids who start out already behind in life, giving them less resources is unconscionable, and it’s far too common.”

In general, wealthier counties are able to raise more money through taxes for the school system than poor counties are, and often send some funds to poorer counties. Federal funds under Title I are expected to add more funds to poorer districts, but instead are serving as an equalizer between the rich and poor counties, despite the original purpose of the Title I.

“The point of that money was to supplement, recognizing that poor children and English language learners and students with disabilities come to school with additional challenges,” Duncan said. “This is about trying to get additional resources to children and communities who everyone knows need additional help.”

PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.