Press Release

AFT Statement: Public School Underfunding Hurts Vulnerable Students Most

For Release: 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Oriana Korin

WASHINGTON—Today, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) released a report, “Confronting the Education Debt,” detailing the systemic underfunding of public schools, focusing specifically on black, Latino and low-income students.

The report reflects an America that is increasingly conscious of the need for investment in public schools, following teacher walkouts this past spring and an unprecedented number of educators now running for elected office to make education issues a priority.

According to the report’s findings, Congress has failed students from low-income families, students of color and students with disabilities in particular. The historic underfunding of Title I and IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) has reinforced a separate and unequal education system, leaving a $580 billion funding hole that has shortchanged the futures of our nation’s most vulnerable students. Since 2005, the federal government has shirked its responsibility to help provide services to students with disabilities to the tune of $233 billion. Over that same period of time, the personal net worth of the nation’s 400 wealthiest individuals grew by $1.57 trillion.

At the state and local levels, the report highlights that on average, districts with large populations of students of color received about $1,800 less in per-pupil funding than districts with a majority of white students.

In response to the report, AFT President Randi Weingarten said:

“The last decade of neglect has been devastating for our public schools, but this report confirms that those hurt the hardest are students who are our most vulnerable. Let’s be clear: These are choices that state and federal policymakers have made. In the aftermath of the recession and the multiyear recovery, state after state has opted for tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, rather than funding for students, particularly those who need it most.

“We’ve been complaining about this lack of investment for years, but thanks to the educator walkouts this spring, the consequences of these misplaced priorities—which have harmed our kids, their families and educators—have now become a very public issue.

“Awareness of the impact of austerity is one thing, doing something about it is quite another. That’s why the 2018 elections are so important. We must commit to electing people who will reverse this undermining of our students’ future and instead prioritize sustainable, equitable investment in our public schools. Public education is a critical rung on the ladder of racial and economic justice. That promise must be fulfilled, but it will take electing majorities in statehouses and Congress who will prioritize students over tax cuts for the wealthy.

 “Thanks to the work of AROS and the tireless efforts of union teachers across the country, we keep fighting to confront our nation’s education debt and demand the investment our schools need.” 

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.