Don’t public dollars pay for public education? Why is my school district doing so much better than SLPS, they both get the same public dollars? SLPS Foundation board and staff often get asked questions like these, and the best answers require some context. In February 2018, The Education Trust, a national education think tank, released a report that ranked Missouri as having the nation’s second highest gap in revenue available for students in affluent areas vs. students in high poverty areas. According to the Trust, “the highest poverty districts receive 17% less ($1,785) per pupil than districts with higher incomes in Missouri” (adjusting for the additional needs of low-income students).
A similar report, “The School Money Project” was issued by National Public Radio in April 2016 which documented a $10,000 difference between what Clayton and St. Louis City spends on students.
The good news is that low income districts do get a bigger share of State revenue, but since local property taxes are such a critical component, the overall result is less revenue in highest-need districts.
Why Does the Gap Matter? All parents want the best possible opportunities for their children: great early starts, devoted teachers, advanced options for career and college prep. The reality is that high poverty districts have more social service-related expenses AND also try to offer school-based services (mental health care, early childhood education, free breakfast and lunch) which many more affluent districts rely on families to provide. In SLPS, more than 80% of families are living at or below the poverty threshold and aren’t able to access these essential services outside of a school setting. Below is just a sampling of supplementary services that SLPS works to provide to students & families:
- Annually, the Saint Louis Public Schools District allocates nearly $20 million to offer free, quality early childhood education, a valuable investment that is not currently covered in the public school funding from the State.
- The District covers the cost of security for schools to keep students and staff safe.
- In the highest risk neighborhoods, SLPS is providing door-to-door transportation since working parents fear for their children’s safety in unsafe streets. Annual transportation costs for the District are close to $29 million.
- Nearly 25% of our families experience homelessness during the year, and the District provides case management to those families, working to keep children in school as the family moves around.
- Additionally, the District provides nurses and social workers (some of whom are part-time) at highest need schools. “It’s not uncommon for our students get sent to school sick because families know there might be a nurse there,” explains one nurse.
- For the 400+ New American students in our schools, SLPS offers intensive English Language Learning programs for both students and parents.
- This year, the District is supporting more than 30 school teams in becoming trauma-informed as an increasing number of our students have been exposed to toxic stress and trauma.
- At the college prep level, the District pays for college visits for students and quality ACT training during the day, expenses most middle class families can assume on their own.
- And most principals have their own version of creative compassion, they create clothes closets with clean uniforms, food banks, job training resources for parents, and holiday support.
“We have a tremendously diverse, resourceful and resilient student body,” said Jane Donahue, President of SLPS Foundation, “we just strive to give them an equal playing field. We want same opportunities.” The SLPS Foundation exists to bridge the gap that is ever widening between students from different socio-economic classes. Many of these “extra” services that are critical to SLPS students are thanks to corporate, foundation, and individual support. We thank donors who invest in our students, and invite you to learn more about advocating for funding equity by clicking here.