Gauging Equity
School Administrator, August 2021

School districts can use new school-by-school financials to determine the equity implications across schools.

Because all states now report school-by-school expenditures each year, decisions that districts make about how to apply their federal dollars will show up in the school-by-school financial reports. Districts will want to consider how their investments impact different schools with an eye toward equity.

The accompanying graph uses those new school-by-school financials to show an East Coast school district’s spending per pupil for each of its elementary schools in 2018-19.

Perhaps more importantly is a first-ever equity provision attached to the federal relief funds, namely the Maintenance of Equity requirement. Not to be confused with the Maintenance of Effort provision, this new equity requirement applies to school districts with more than 1,000 students and specifies that if districts make cuts in the 2022 and 2023 school years, they must not make larger cuts per pupil to higher-poverty schools.

Another part of the provision prohibits disproportionate cuts to staffing in each district’s highest-poverty schools. In this case, a school is considered higher poverty if it is in the district’s top quartile of schools with respect to poverty concentration. This new equity requirement means that districts will need to watch carefully how decisions on hiring, staffing or even layoffs impact the finances at various schools.