Public Education Funding Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation

Posted by U. S. Commission on Civil Rights on January 29, 2018

Briefing Before The United States Commission on Civil Rights Held in Washington, DC

In 1954, the Supreme Court decreed in Brown v. Board of Education that public education “is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms,” yet all across the United States (U.S.), there are many millions of students who are unable to access a quality public education due to inequities in public education finance. With insufficient financial resources, our nation’s public schools generally struggle to provide a quality education on equal terms and evidence is  concrete that “the U.S. educational system is one of the most unequal in the industrialized world, and students routinely receive dramatically different learning opportunities based on their social status.”

Repeat litigation filings challenge some of these inequities. For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of four black mothers in Mississippi who alleged their children’s schools lack textbooks, teachers, basic classroom supplies, and even toilet paper. One mother described her young daughter’s school as “old, dark and gloomy—like a jail,” with paint peeling off the wall and water spots. Parents also alleged that sometimes their children are
served lunches with curdled milk and rotten fruit. The school districts involved in the lawsuit serve predominantly low-income, black students and both have been given the lowest ratings by the state’s education department, and at one child’s elementary school only 10 percent of students are proficient in reading and only 4 percent are proficient in math. The parents’ complaint contrasts their children’s school conditions to the highly-ranked nearby schools that they describe
as serving predominantly wealthy, white students; having adequate resources; and achieving proficiency in reading and math for the majority of students (73 percent proficient in reading and 71 percent proficient in math).

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