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Report says education funding shorts state's low-income children

ANNISTON (AP) — Alabama's low-income students are not receiving as much federal money for education as those from higher-income areas, according to a report released by the nonprofit Education Trust that criticizes the U.S. government's funding process.

The report, which was released Wednesday, shows how the funding process benefits wealthier states and systems.

"In America, we say you can be anything you want to be if you work hard and stay in school," Education Trust President Kati Haycock said. "But while we say that to kids, we are essentially sucker-punching them at the same time."

Wealthier states win

The U.S. government provides money for schools based on the number and concentration of low-income children in a state and on the state's average per-student spending as outlined in Title I of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The study shows that the state expenditure factor skews the distribution to benefit wealthier states.

"Kids who already have more, get more," Goodwin Liu, a co-author of the report, said. "Federal Title I money is supposed to level the playing field for poor kids; in fact, the opposite is true."

Alabama has 2 percent of the nation's poor children but receives just 1.6 percent of all federal Title I money. The report said 23 states receive a greater share, even though their percentage of poor children is smaller.

The report also showed the disparity is greatest in the South, where every state receives a smaller share.

$1,071 vs. $2.794

Alabama receives about $1,071 per child, compared to $2,794 per child in Vermont and $2,310 in Massachusetts. As for how states fund public schools, 30 still have gaps between the highest- and lowest-poverty systems. The gap was $656 per student in Alabama, the 12th largest in the country. The national average was $1,307 per student, The Anniston Star reported.

To close the gaps, the report suggests states rely less on local property taxes because wealth and property value are often unequally distributed.

"If we want systems that consistently catch up students who enter school behind, we have to change the odds," Ross Weiner, a co-author of the report, said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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