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Funding + Separate but Equal

HCRL's picture

I found Erwin Chemerinsky’s article to be quite thought-provoking, and it raised one main question for me. He very clearly explains how the various levels of courts have repeatedly contributed to the segregation of American schools, however he does not expand on why segregated schools are so flawed. This was not the focus of his article so I am not criticizing him too strongly for not including this, but I think it is worth a thought. Is there really no such thing as “separate but equal”? What if a school was specifically targeted at students who are Black and Latin@, and its curriculum and school policies reflected that focus? Couldn’t this school be better than a school directed at white students and essentially ignores its non-white students? I believe it could be, but that the problem comes down to funding. 

As Chemerinsky explained, schools are typically funded (or partly funded) by property taxes, and schools in wealthier areas tend to have more white students, so it follows that schools specifically for non-white students would receive less funding (based on this property tax system). I personally believe that equally funding schools is just as, or perhaps even more important than the racial make up of schools. I would also guess that if schools were funded more equally, then the racial make-up would eventually change naturally. For many parents who have enough money to choose where to live (example, in Philadelphia or Lower Merion), the quality of schools is a very big factor in their decision. If Philadelphia public schools were to receive the same funding as Lower Merion schools, then perhaps white flight wouldn’t continue to persist.

*Fun/depressing fact: In the 2012-13 school year, the Lower Merion School District (LMSD) spent $5000+ more per student than did the School District of Philadelphia School District (SDP) (or rather, LMSD was able to spend $5000+ more per student than the SDP.) This is especially problematic as Philadelphia has a much higher number and proportion of students who have special needs, are English Language Learners, and who qualify for free or reduced priced lunches.*