Education, Government, Poverty

Urban and Suburban Divide Creates Inequity in Education

Education funding disparities cause urban schools like Corcoran High School in Syracuse to lag behind wealthier, suburban schools. (c) 2018 Sean Scott

Click the play button above to hear how education funding gaps divides suburban and urban school districts across the country

Audio Transcript: Scott_Education Inequity_Script

By Sean Scott SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Since the spread of suburbanization in the 1950s, a divide has emerged between urban and suburban areas. Nowhere is this divide more evident than in public primary education funding, which is causing urban school districts to lag behind suburban school districts .

Dating back to the beginning of suburbanization, urban areas have typically been poorer and have a larger minority population than the wealthier suburbs of cities. This is due to a variety of societal and political factors, but the gap for education funding has emerged because of how New York State sets up their formula for distributing money to the different school districts.

In New York State, property taxes determine the public primary education funding for each district. Vice President of the Syracuse City School District Board of Education, Patricia Body says this is a mistake in high-poverty cities, such as Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.

I just think that every child has a potential and if the correct funding is available for the needs of the children that are in high-poverty, I think those children could be as productive as any other child according to the state tests,” Body said.

Education is a vital aspect of youth development and the United States has a universal education system to give all children an education. Yet, for those left in urban areas, such as Chicago, Miami or Syracuse, the opportunities are not equal to school children in suburban areas due to the funding gap between suburban and urban school districts. However, Body says the lack of funding for urban school districts unfairly sets those schools back.

“[Suburban schools] can provide the same program year after year and they’re not relying on grants to get their money, whereas the urban districts are always looking for different grants that are available. So that really is hurtful to the students and teachers,” Body said.

In states with more urban cities, state funding for those school districts is usually inadequate, which means the federal government has to cover the lack of state funding. New York State has a funding gap of over one billion dollars.

In Syracuse, just 47 percent of properties are taxable because of the large number of tax-exempt properties in the city.