This is not just another report to sit on the shelf examining how white students tend to score better on standardized tests than Black students. This is a report that, perhaps for the first time in St. Louis, or at least since the Spainhower Commission study in the 1960s, examines the root causes of that disparity. They are: funding, created by an over-reliance on property taxes; and the divisions created by having 29 separate school districts spread over St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County, the areas the report examined.
“The right diagnosis is essential for the right treatment,” says Karishma Furtado, one of the report’s authors. Three numbers from the report help tell the story of education disparity in St. Louis. When comparing majority white vs. majority Black school districts, white districts receive $1,698 more per student; the best funded white district spends $8,412 more per child than the best funded black district; and 82% of funding for white school districts comes from local sources, compared with 58% for majority Black districts. That last number means Black districts are more likely to be hurt when state funding dries up or is cut.
Fundamentally, says David Dwight, executive director of Forward Through Ferguson, the report shows that the way the state of Missouri funds schools is broken, highlighted by the rare occasion in which the Legislature fully funds the foundation formula that determines how much local schools get from the state. And because the schools are funded with property taxes, and majority Black districts are in communities with lower tax bases, the disparity is cooked into the system.