PHILADELPHIA—In America, schools with a lot of minority students are chronically underfunded. Is that the case because these students are poor, and poor communities have fewer resources for funding their schools? Or, is it because of the color of these students’ skin?
Unsettlingly, recent research from data scientist David Mosenkis finds that poverty alone does not explain the underfunding. Mosenkis delved into funding data for 500 school districts in the state of Pennsylvania. Because richer school districts are able to drum up more cash through taxes, they should receive less state funding, and poorer districts should receive more. He looked at how much money they received and sorted those findings based on race and income.
Using a broad scope, Mosenkis found what one might expect: On the surface poor districts do receive more state funding than rich schools. But when he delved deeper into the data, sorting by race, what he found was disturbing.
District Funding, by Racial Composition and Poverty Level
“If you color code the districts based on their racial composition you see this very stark breakdown. At any given poverty level, districts that have a higher proportion of white students get substantially higher funding than districts that have more minority students.” That means that no matter how rich or poor the district in question, funding gaps existed solely based on the racial composition of the school. Just the increased presence of minority students actually deflated a district’s funding level. “The ones that have a few more students of color get lower funding than the ones that are 100 percent or 95 percent white,” Mosenkis said.