Podcast: What schools look like when we fund them fairly
By: The Impact
Across the United States, schools are almost universally funded by local property taxes. This means that schools in less wealthy areas have less funding for their students. This can make it hard to keep up on basic things like maintenance but also buy new textbooks or science equipment.
A lawsuit against this method was filed in Vermont in the 1990’s. They argued that it violated the state constitution that all students were guaranteed an equal education. They won.
As a result, the Vermont legislature passed laws where each school district made their budget each year, the budgets across the state were combined, and wealthier communities paid a higher percentage than poorer communities.
This created some pretty fierce resentment and bad blood between wealthier communities and poorer ones. A lot of people didn’t like the state government involved in something like this.
Recently, because of an aging population, the number of students enrolled statewide has dropped from around 100k to about 85k. But because many schools have fixed costs regardless of how many students they have (building maintenance, electric and water bills) the cost per student has gone up.
As a result, Vermont has started passing laws requiring small districts to merge together and has been closing some of the schools.
This all seems fine to me. I’m a believer in spending equally on education for all students. The typical nationwide method of better schools being in wealthier areas seems just a sneaky way of preserving a the wealthy gap generationally and also ensures the very groups that need the most help won’t get it.
As to the second part part of the podcast, I’m also fine with that. If there are smart ways to cut costs we should be considering them. Continuing to spend almost the same money on a school that only has half as many students as twenty years ago doesn’t seem economical.