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Report Finds Predominantly White Schools Receive $23B More Than Everyone Else

March 5, 2019 1:30 p.m.

Guest: Rebecca Sibilia, founder and CEO, EdBuild

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It's a 1954 problem. In 2019 you see in May of 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Brown v. Board of Education case desegregating schools. The ruling was intended to ensure all students received an equal education. But a recent report from the nonprofit Ed Bild shows predominantly white schools get 23 billion dollars more than predominantly non-white schools across this country. Rebecca Sebelius is the founder and CEO of Ed build. She joins us to breakdown this report. REBECCA welcome.

Thank you it's great to be here.

So your research found that white schools get 23 billion dollars more per year than non-white schools what did you discover in terms of why this disparity exists.

Well there are a number of reasons why the disparity exists but ultimately all of this comes down to the fact that we continue to fund our schools based on geography. So you know since Brown v. Board in your opening one of the court cases that is very important in terms of how schools are funded and ultimately desegregation it's actually a lesser Court case called Milliken v. Bradley that was ruled by the Supreme Court in 1974. And what they said in that court case is that if there is a school district border that's drawn anywhere for any reason then the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction to mandate desegregation across those lines.

And so when you combine a school district that is funded based on the geography and the people who live within a certain order and the fact that the United States Supreme Court has made school district borders sacrosanct Of course you're going to create an inherently unequal system for which there is very little recourse at the federal level.

And California was one of the states highlighted in your report how big is the funding gap across this state and how does San Diego compare the funding gap in California is particularly problematic in California.

There are almost three point eight billion students who are enrolled in non-white school districts who receive on average about twenty three hundred dollars less than students in white segregated districts that are their peers. So not only is that a pretty sizable discrepancy it's a little bit over the national per student norm that we found it's a sizable number of students. So at the total 10 million students that we found are enrolled in these kind of systemically underfunded systems three point eight million of those students are coming from California.

And how does this impact each of those three point eight million students.

Well when you think about twenty three twenty four hundred dollars a student you're talking about 44000 dollars a classroom. And so think about what technology you could buy with forty four thousand dollars. Think about what kind of bonuses and what kind of salary increases you could give the teacher. These are all very important particularly in our lower income nonwhite communities in order to get students who are systemically underserved up to par with their peers.

So when you start looking at what this kind of collects to you at the classroom level that can substantially change the game both for the teachers that are teaching these students and also for what these classrooms look like.

And you know you were talking about the connection between where someone lives and how much money a school gets last year revealed from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Did this study that uncovered modern day redlining essentially journalists found that in 61 cities across America people of color were more likely to be turned down for a conventional home loan even when they made the same amount of money tried to take out the same sized loan and wanted to buy the same house in the same neighborhood as their white counterparts. Is the funding gap in schools bigger than the local tax base you think it absolutely is.

So you know we always have to take into consideration that these borders were very purposefully drawn over decades of policies like those that you mentioned. I like to tell people that I am the first generation where discrimination racial discrimination is actually illegal. So when we kind of look back on the last hundred years we had housing discrimination we had voting rights discrimination all of those things created borders that our society now can't escape from. And when you think about school district borders those are kind of little micro communities and they are not only reflective of all of the vestiges of these terrible past policies.

They are in like entrenching them and making them even worse because they're adding to a systemic disadvantage that's coming to the people that have been most underserved and most discriminated in our society.

And what type of solutions do you see what what systemic changes need to happen.

Well the first I think is that we need to collectively as a society double down on the idea that education is indeed a common good and that we can govern our schools locally without having to keep our local wealth. And so we have kind of combined in our country the idea that keeping your local wealth is a part of what you're entitled to in order to govern your own community schools. Those two things are very separate ideas and things need to be untangled in order for us to get to a more equitable funding system.

I think the second thing is really kind of revisiting whether or not having states filling in the gaps between local Well it's actually working. We would posit that it's not. I think we see systemically that it's not. And I think that what we really need to do is kind of push more legal activity to question whether or not it's the borders themselves that are creating the problem in terms of how the funding school I've been speaking with Rebecca Sebelius founder and CEO of ad build Rebecca thanks so much for joining us. Thank you so much for having me.