Urban Ed

Professor Bruce Baker Presents on School Finance and Educational Inequality

Photo: Alicia Camuy ’22, Director of Urban Educational Initiatives Robert Cotto Jr., Professor Bruce Bakers, Sonja Dessalines ’22, Director of Community Learning Megan Hartline, and Professor Stefanie Wong.


Robert Cotto Jr. and Professor Bruce Baker

Last week, we were lucky to be joined by Professor Bruce Baker, a Professor at Rutgers University and one of the leading researchers on school finance and educational inequality. Trinity College students, faculty, staff, community partners, and community members gathered at 70 Vernon Street to hear Prof. Baker discuss inequity in school finance and the particular impacts that has in Connecticut and in Latinx communities.

We were lucky to be joined by some key leaders in the Hartford area– Trinity’s Center for Urban and Global Studies Director Garth Myers, State Representative for Hartford and Windsor Brandon McGee, the former Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Education Diana Wetzell, Laurel Killough of the Connecticut Education Association, and many more.

Take a look at a video recording of the lecture and a copy of Professor Baker’s slides below, as well as a reposted version of CT Education Association’s blog post about the event– thank you Laurel Killough for writing!

Download Professor Bruce Baker’s slides here.

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School Finance Expert Says There Are No Substitutions for Equitably Funding Schools
Professor Bruce Baker speaking at the Center for Hartford Engagement & Research. Photo by Laurel Killough, CT Education Association.

by Laurel Killough on July 10, 2019

There are those, including current U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who argue that spending more on public
education doesn’t lead to better outcomes. School finance expert and Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker begs to differ, and he has research to back his position up.

“We have more data available now—20 year data sets—and can tease out change over time,” he told students and community members gathered at Trinity College’s Center for Hartford Engagement and Research today. “That’s why there are a number of studies that have come out now that show longitudinally that increased funding leads to better outcomes.”

Studies show that increased school funding particularly makes a difference for low-income students, leading not just to better test scores, but also to increased adult earnings.

“There are no magical substitutions” to equitably funding schools, Baker says. “Running a good school takes having good people—and enough of them. And to get good people into schools you need to pay well enough.”

All districts need highly-qualified educators, but some schools have more significant needs, Baker says. “Districts that serve a high-needs population need more resources to achieve common outcome goals. It takes more money, not just the same money, in a school in a high-poverty area with more students who are English learners.”

While Connecticut students’ average scores on international assessments rival many top-scoring nations, those averages can hide significant disparities between districts, Baker says.

In a 2014 report he authored for the Center for American Progress, Baker examined the nation’s most financially disadvantaged school districts, defining the districts as “those with higher-than-average student needs for their labor-market location and lower-than-average resources when state and local revenues are combined.” He found that 13.6 percent of Connecticut students attend school in these districts, making Connecticut the state with the 5th highest student enrollment in disadvantaged districts.

Baker recently analyzed current school funding data to generate an updated list of financially disadvantaged districts, and found that the most financially disadvantaged school district in the country is New Britain, Connecticut, with Bridgeport at number 4—Waterbury and Danbury are not far down the list.

Though he doesn’t have an explanation for it, in his 2014 report Baker mentions a noteworthy finding. “A seemingly peculiar finding regards the disparate racial distribution of fiscal disadvantage. Predominantly Hispanic school districts outside of major cities, including midsized and smaller cities and large towns, appear more frequently on the fiscally disadvantaged list.”

To improve outcomes for students in these disadvantaged districts Baker says increased funding is essential. “We would need to provide more staff, and more specialized staff in any school with greater student need. Kids should be provided equal opportunity to achieve outcome goals.”


Thank you to original author Laurel Killough of the Connecticut Education Association. Read more https://blogcea.org