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Study in California Shows Funding Inequities Within Districts

An analysis of data from nearly 1,700 schools in California shows that a 10 percent increase in student poverty levels coincides with a $411 decrease in the average salary of teachers.

The Center for American Progress report, "Comparable, Schmomparable: Evidence of Inequity in the Allocation of Funds for Teacher Salary Within California’s Public School Districts," cites statistics to support the premise that significant inequities exist among resources provided to schools within the same district.

"This abstract finding translates to concrete disparities in funds available to support instruction," the report’s executive summary states. "The aggregated salary gap between two otherwise identical schools with the average number of teachers, one with a student poverty rate of 50 percentage points higher than the other, amounts to approximately $76,000."

The inequities have developed, the center contends, because of seniority privileges that veteran teachers exercise.

"Teacher salary, the largest category of school expenditure, is tightly linked to seniority, which also confers transfer privileges," the report says. "Teachers tend to exercise these privileges to flee high-poverty schools for ones serving more affluent communities."

The center says its analysis can help districts gain a better understanding of how their resources are allocated. It also notes that similar analyses will be possible in systems throughout the nation because of reporting requirements that were part of the 2009 federal stimulus package.

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