“The geographic lines that separate districts wouldn’t matter if school funding and affordable housing were spread equally across regions. But they’re not. Districts that sit right next to each other often have vastly different levels of both.” - USA TODAY
Public schools are designed to provide every student with an equal opportunity to achieve the American dream. In reality, that ideal is removed from the lives of millions of K-12 schoolchildren. Geographic school district boundaries and the rental housing market limit options for students with the highest needs while benefiting more affluent families in far too many communities across the country.
Priced Out of Public Schools: District Lines, Housing Access, and Inequitable Educational Options*, a new report by Bellwether Education Partners, examines the relationships among rental housing access, per-pupil funding, and school district boundaries in the 200 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. by exploring three core questions:
- How much access do low-income families have to housing in each district?
- What is the relationship between the accessibility of rental housing in school districts and per-pupil funding?
- How do school district boundaries affect low-income families’ access to public schooling options within their broader communities?
The combination of two factors — how district boundaries are drawn and where accessible housing is located — often have the effect of clustering lower-income families into some districts and separating more affluent families into others. This is a housing crisis and an education crisis that contributes to an inequitable gap that averages $6,355 in district funding per pupil and affects 12.8 million students across the country. Unless policymakers begin addressing all of the interrelated problems, millions of families will continue to find themselves priced out of their preferred public school systems.