Supporters of urban education frequently make the case that city schools are underfunded. Hampered by reliance on local property taxes, they contend, urban schools lack the resources they need to ensure their students succeed.

In most states, though, spending on education in rich and poor neighborhoods is relatively equal. And in states including Minnesota, New Jersey, and Ohio, city schools regularly outspend their suburban counterparts. Even in those cases, however, achievement disparities between suburban and urban schools persist. Those who advocate against increased funding for urban schools are quick to point to this fact as evidence that more money won’t make a difference.

How can this be? How can advocates allege that urban schools need more money when disparities in student achievement do not appear to be the obvious result of disparities in spending?

The idea that equal inputs will produce equal outcomes presumes a degree of similarity across families and neighborhoods. Yet generations of inequality have constrained opportunities for people in marginalized communities, often most forcefully through racially isolated neighborhoods with vastly uneven access to mainstream social, political, and economic life. Given this context, producing equal educational outcomes would seemingly require more than equal funding. It would require addressing the specific historical injustices that affect student learning — paying down what the scholar Gloria Ladson-Billings has called the “education debt.”

Read the full article about school-funding debates by Jack Schneider at The Atlantic.