Local School Funding – a Barrier to Equality in Urban Areas

John Heintz Chicago

John Heintz, Chicago

As a senior legal consultant for Chicago firm Lydian, Inc., John Heintz offers high-end management consulting services to corporate leaders. John Heintz comes from a background in education, and previously served as the assistant superintendent for operations in Niles Township High School District 219 outside Chicago. He also continues to operate Second Rail, an organization working toward success and reform in public education.

Cities such as Chicago are overflowing with talent and human capital. Their selective enrollment schools produce some of the best students in the country, but their public schools are consistently outperformed by schools in nearby suburban areas.

Funding is one key problem. The public school funding system is based on property taxes, which means that wealthy areas tend to receive the most money for education. This creates large disparities. In Illinois’ wealthier districts, schools are spending $30,000 per student per year. In less wealthy areas, that figure is closer to $8,000.

A fleeing middle class can compound this problem. When big city schools do not meet expectations, many middle-class families move to the suburbs. They take their political capital with them, leaving families who are unable to move away with even less political clout.

Some experts suggest that changing funding structures may be the best way to foster equality between urban and suburban students. Local funding and control creates major disparities, so schools in and around urban areas may be best able to flourish under a more centralized funding system.

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