A river too wide

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Poverty Rate of Children Ages 5 to 17 by County

Poverty Rate of Children Ages 5 to 17 by County

(Click on the map to enlarge.)

Some readers respond hesitantly when I discuss reforming school funding. I thought the above picture might help. Poverty falls in pockets, pockets that contain school districts dependent on property taxes for funding. Where poverty runs high, property values run low. School districts become dependent on supplemental funds from their state or the federal government, funding that comes intermittently, whimsically and with strings attached.

Property-tax-based funding can sound innocuous because so many numbers are in play that the numbers become unreal and the patterns become tough to tease out. But the net result of the current system is that our poorest children often go to our most economically-challenged schools. The kids who need the most help may get the least help because they were born in red patches on the map.

Yes, the pattern can be deceiving. Our richest districts may contain homeless students. America remains diverse. The Federal government may open the tax-dollar spigot, allowing dollars to rush out in the form of school improvement grants and other rescues. But under the diversity and grants, a pattern can be seen, a pattern I consider to be fundamentally unjust.

We have to move away from property taxes as the basis for America’s school funding.