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Report: State Funding Favors Students In Poverty, But Majority Nonwhite Schools Still Suffer

A new study from a national education reform advocacy group found South Florida school districts spend less per student in schools with mostly black and Latino children.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

UPDATED: Education Reform Now has acknowledged its report was inaccurate and has reissued the report with an apology. Read more here.

South Florida schools with mostly white students are better funded than those with mostly black and Latino students, according to a new report from a national education reform advocacy organization.

The Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach county school districts spend more per student in schools with a majority of white students, the report from the nonprofit found. However, all three districts spend significantly more on high-poverty schools than low-poverty schools. The trend was consistent in most urban districts statewide.

In Palm Beach County, high-poverty schools have “an incredible 70.6% advantage” over low-poverty schools, the report states.

Schools' status as high or low poverty was based on data regarding students' eligility for free or discounted lunch.

A spokesperson for the Palm Beach County district said in an email resources are allocated based on students' needs, not their races or ethnicities. Representatives for Miami-Dade and Broward did not immediately return requests for comment.Researchers acknowledged that Florida’s funding formula is designed to drive more money toward poorer schools. But, according to the report’s findings, that policy doesn’t address the funding disparities that affect schools with higher concentrations of nonwhite students. 

“Ultimately, Florida’s funding structures deliberately provide additional funding for schools with more students in poverty,” the report states. “Yet across the state, this intentionality does not ensure that nonwhite students have equitable access to resources, leaving nonwhite with fewer resources than their white peers.”

Researchers didn't know why these inequities persisted, stating that was a question they might try to answer in future studies.

“Because Florida publishes limited information on how funds are allocated within districts, it is unclear what is driving inequities in per-pupil funding between white and non-white students," the report said.

Education Reform Now is tied to the group Democrats for Education Reform, which has supported alternatives to traditional public education like charter schools. 

Read the report here:

UPDATED: This article was updated at 3:35 p.m. with additional context about the methodology of the study and a response from the Palm Beach County school district.

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Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.