This inequality directly affects the bottom line of our school district budget. The number of teachers, teacher’s aides, special education programs, counseling, and other services necessary to educate all kids in the district can be traced directly to increasing needs brought on by growing community inequality. Inequality quite literally costs local taxpayers money.
The exact price tag is impossible to pin down precisely. But we do have good estimates of how much school inequality costs Pennsylvania residents in general. A recent study by Temple University and the RAND Corporation shows that eliminating the achievement gap between poorer and wealthier students in the state would increase the state’s overall economic output by as much as $3.1 billion in the first year, and $43.5 billion over the next decade (just as a point of comparison, the deficit in the budget passed last year by Pennsylvania lawmakers is just over $1 billion).
People are often puzzled why the costs of public education continue to rise. An important piece of that puzzle is the impact of growing inequality on school resources and school needs. We live in a community that is much more unequal than when you and I went to school. And we all pay for it.
Inequality and poverty are only one piece of the larger budgetary puzzle in our district. To read the other pieces in this budget series, check out: