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How property taxes are keeping poor students from going to good schools
In the United States, the public school a student attends is still primarily determined by where their family lives. According to EdBuild, this is a problem. - photo by Omar Etman
Since the Great Depression, the number of communities in concentrated poverty has doubled, and the public school funding system's reliance on property taxes is partly to blame, according to an education nonprofit.

EdBuild, the group behind the interactive map released this week showing poverty rates among school districts, is dedicated to bringing common sense to our school funding system, according to its website. The data on more than 13,000 school districts was pulled from the Census Bureau.

In the United States, the public school a student attends is still primarily determined by where their family lives. According to EdBuild, this is a problem.

Most children are enrolled in district schools that receive, on average, nearly half of their funding through local property taxes. This system ties school budgets to the value of local property wealth and incentivizes boundaries between upper- and lower-income communities," EdBuild states. "Intentional or not, these invisible walls often concentrate education dollars within affluent school districts, and ensure that low-income students are kept on the outside.

The map and accompanying analysis highlighted a few specific spots in the country where the economic divide between neighboring districts is large, like in Camden, New Jersey, the most impoverished city in the country and home to the poorest district in the area, Camden City School District.

Within a 5-mile radius of Camden are 32 other districts with more advantaged student populations. The wealthier districts have avoided redistricting for fear of inheriting poorer students, and the effect that could have on their test scores and funding.

The end result of these many borders is that the children of Camden are fenced off from their more affluent peers in effect, sacrificed to keep the poverty of the city from dragging down the property wealth of its neighbors, EdBuild concluded.

Redistricting is controversial anywhere in the country. Critics say it is difficult for local school officials to redraw boundaries when parents and students are accustomed to things as they were, especially those from affluent districts that are disproportionately affected by the change, according to a report in

EdBuild founder Rebecca Sibilia said the country can sidestep the need to re-district by addressing the education systems over-reliance on property taxes.

Its creating arbitrary lines to keep wealth in or out of specific areas and in some cases creating a very clear incentive to segregate along socioeconomic lines, she told The Washington Post. When you start to see the gerrymandering effect in an area like Camden thats very clear segregation. Theres nothing else that you can say about that. We believe that part of those impermeable borders are being bolstered by the fact that were relying on property taxes as a major contributor to funding our schools.
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