Educational Opportunity for All: Reducing Intradistrict Funding Disparities

Lauren A. Webb

It is a common refrain in American education that the quality of a student’s education “should not depend on his or her zip code.” Yet American public education consistently falls short: Many schools and districts, in particular those with large populations of low-socioeconomic status (low-SES) and minority students, do not receive the funding necessary to provide their students with educational opportunities equal to those in wealthier schools. Plaintiffs in many states have sought to improve educational equity by using litigation to attack disparities in funding between districts. However, intradistrict inequity—the inequitable funding of schools within the same district—has persisted throughout the United States to the detriment of low-SES students around the country. This Note argues that these funding disparities can and should be addressed through both courts and policy changes. Students, families, and other parties harmed by intradistrict funding disparities should use state courts and state constitutions’ education clauses to extend previous interdistrict school funding victories and to force policymakers to implement more equitable intradistrict funding. Policymakers should implement school funding policies that promote comprehensive equity and take into account relevant student characteristics, including low socioeconomic status. These policies should promote comprehensive equity by providing all schools with base funding sufficient to give each student an adequate education and by distributing any funding beyond that amount equitably across schools in accordance with their students’ characteristics.

This article appears in the December 2017 Issue: Volume 92, Number 6