Wealthy Parents Keep Trying to Starve Public School Districts

The wealthier portion of Baton Rouge, Louisiana wants to spin itself off into its own little school district, leaving the poorer portion of the city with far less revenue for schools. This is, sadly, a trend that shows no sign of abating.

Bloomberg today reports on the Baton Rouge group—hilariously named "Local Schools For Local Children"—that's pushing a plan to split off the more affluent east side of town from the poorer parts of the community, for school funding purposes. The estimated economic impact:

Louisiana, however, scored worst in the nation [on funding disparities between school districts]. A December report by three LSU economics professors found that breaking up the East Baton Rouge Parish school system would depress total per-pupil spending to $8,870 from $9,635. It would rise to $11,686 in the breakaway district.

Eighty percent of the current district's students are black, and 82 percent poor enough to qualify for free or reduced school meals.

The idea of wealthy communities splitting off into their own school districts is not a new one. Its benefits for the kids in the wealthy districts are obvious. While it's tempting to dismiss the wealthier parents as selfish—and I do, to be clear—these actions point to a larger problem with the way we fund schools. Any system that draws public school funding from local taxes encourages exactly this sort of self-serving action. And these economic secessions are, in a way, even worse than rich families who opt out entirely and send their kids to private schools—because those rich families still pay taxes that support public schools for the entire community. If a whole wealthy community walls itself off, though, the poorer people of a city (who need good public schools more than anyone) will suffer.

Wouldn't it make more sense to just fund school districts federally, according to a rational formula based on need, rather than on how rich the parents are in the surrounding neighborhoods? Also abolish private schools. When everyone is in the sinking ship together, the holes get fixed much faster.

[Photo: Flickr]