Spending disparities between schools have dramatically increased since the 1960s War on Poverty began, chronicled a recent Education Week analysis that is the first in a series reflecting on the impact of the War on Poverty of the 1960s. Differences in overall per-pupil spending between the top spending and lowest spending states have increased from $4,000 in 1969 to $14,673 in 2009-2010 in inflation-adjusted dollars.
The Ed Week analysis concluded that successful litigation has historically led to increased funding. In many of the states with the highest spending growth, courts have ruled in favor of plaintiffs who brought education finance litigations. In seven of the top nine states and D.C. in terms of spending growth, the courts have ruled at some point in favor of plaintiffs seeking more equitable and adequate K-12 spending.
Increased public school funding and spending disparities since the 1960s are also largely attributable to programs that serve children who had previously been overlooked by the education system, according to David Sciarra, the executive director of the Education Law Center. He attributes the funding increases to the nation’s greater attention to children with special needs. Sciarra, however, criticizes the inconsistent spending of different states on resources for low-income children.
The authors note that some blame the inadequacies of resources on the mismanagement of education funding. According to Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, high-spending states have not scored significantly better on student achievement tests than low-spending states. The Ed Week analysis concludes, however, with a quote from Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, that the federal government has failed to ensure that states are providing an equitable and adequate education.
February 12, 2014