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Cornelius News

COVID-19 and schools: Will differences in wealth increase the gap?

 

Most Equitable Least Equitable
1. Washington County School 106. Robeson County School
2. Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Schools 107. Lexington City Schools
3. Elkin City Schools 108. Dare County School
4. Catawba County School 109. Chatham County School
5. Alleghany County School District 110. Currituck County School
6. Haywood County School 111. Union County Schools
7. Henderson County School District 112. Wake County Schools
8. Warren County School 113. Orange County Schools
9. Kannapolis City School 114. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
10. Pender County School 115. Hyde County Schools

Aug. 5. With research showing that low-income students will fall behind their wealthy peers if schools operate remotely due to COVID-19, and a renewed focus on racial equality, there’s a new report from WalletHub that ranks 115 North Carolina school systems on the basis of fairness and equity in local school funding.

Charlotte comes in at No. 103 out of 115 school systems that were ranked.

Nearby, Cabarrus County Schools came in at No. 100; Iredell/Statesville at No. 33 and Lincoln County at No. 19.

WalletHub scored the equitability of each school district in North Carolina based on two metrics: Average household income and expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools per pupil.

Meanwhile, discrepancies between the rich and poor have been exacerbated even more this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing perhaps lasting harm, according to a McKinsey & Co. study.

One contributing factor is that people in low-income districts are less likely to have the technological resources they need.

NC: Most equitable overall

North Carolina has the most equitable school districts in the U.S. overall, according to the WalletHub study.

States that provide equitable funding to all school districts can help prevent poor students from having lower graduation rates, lower rates of pursuing higher education and smaller future incomes than their wealthy peers.

The difference is dramatic: College graduates have $460 – $1,154 higher median weekly earnings than people with a high school diploma and no college experience, depending on the degree.

The ultimate goal of a “fair and equitable” funding system is to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education regardless of where they live and their background.

A state system relying heavily on local property taxes without strong mechanisms to offset geographic inequities is the first indicator of an unfair system, said Julie Marsh
Ph.D., professor of education policy at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California.

“In such a system, districts with lower property values will inherently bring in less money for their schools,” she said.

States can try to offset this inequity by supplementing through income and sales taxes and lotteries, but often fail to do so adequately, “which is why we see lawsuits around the country,” Marsh said.

The COVID-19 crisis demonstrates the vital role of schools in our society to the economy and the well-being of families, Marsh said.

“Perhaps this crisis can build the needed momentum in future years to increase spending and the necessary personal investment it will require in the form of higher taxes for some,” she said.

Methodology

In order to rank the states with the most and least equitable school districts, WalletHub first scored 12,919 school districts throughout the U.S. based on two metrics: average household income and expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools per pupil.

For expenditures, for each 1 percent above the state’s average we removed 1 point from a base score of 50 points for each district. For household income, for each 1 percent above the state’s average we added 1 point to a base score of 50 points for each district. The inverse was true for each 1 percent below the state’s average.

The final score for each district was calculated by taking the absolute difference between the score for expenditures and the score for household income. We then ranked the districts based on the total score, with the lowest value, representing the most equitable, being ranked 1.

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