Exploring Inequality in Education Funding: Pennsylvania

Monday, June 15, 2020
exploring inequality in education funding


Inequality in Education Funding: Exploring The Issues

A 2015 study found that Pennsylvania has the largest funding gap between its richest and poorest school districts of all states. Student reporters Caroline Doster, Rebekah McCurdy and Felicity Bowman take a deeper dive into what caused this gap and how Pennsylvanians are trying to fix it. Watch the video below and answer the discussion questions. Have students fill out the “While you watch” worksheet as they watch. After comparing worksheet answers, answer the discussion questions. To watch more Student Reporting Labs’ videos from their new series, “2020 in Focus: Climate Change, Education, & Mental Health,” click here

  • Pennsylvania’s wealthiest districts spend more than one-third more per student than the state’s poorest districts.
  • In 1991, the state of Pennsylvania began to decrease its share of education spending every year, leaving it to local communities to make up the difference.
  • Donna Cooper says part of the solution is to make sure schools spend money the right way by prioritizing small class sizes, arts curriculum and teacher training.



Discussion Questions

  1. Essential questions: How can school funding reinforce or reduce systemic inequality? What funding system would you implement?
  2. How might educational opportunities affect social mobility and life outcomes?
  3. In the video, Gilberto Gonzalez says that art will help students in his school learn to communicate better. Do you agree? Do you think arts should be considered more of a priority when a school’s funding is tight? Why or why not?
  4. Media literacy: This story contained lots of B roll (supplemental footage or background footage) of students in classrooms. What did those classrooms look like? To what extent did the B roll footage reflect the story you were hearing? How did these images affect what you thought about the story?

Extension Activity

Take a deeper look at the Fair Funding Formula. The video above presented the Fair Funding Formula as a flawed step in the right direction regarding unequal school funding. However, according to this article, not only has the Formula failed to remedy the funding gap, but the gap has actually grown since the implementation of the Formula. Read the article and answer these discussion questions:

  1. Why do you think the Fair Funding Formula was unsuccessful at remedying inequalities? Is it simply because of its small scope, or is there some other reason it’s ineffective?
  2. What roadblocks do you think might be standing in the way of implementing effective school funding reform in Pennsylvania?
  3. What strategies would you implement to fix unequal funding in schools?

Read the original article.