US Public Education System: Segregation and Funding


Public education in the United States has always been looked at as a freedom and liberty. Having an education meant that you were a productive and contributing member of society. Settlers built schools to educate their children, but only if you were white. The first public school opened in 1635 in Boston Massachusetts. Segregated schools existed until 1954, the public school wasn’t fair education for black, white, Chinese, or other nationalities. White schools continued to be superior to other schools because of districting and funding. Funding for schools is based on the economy, economy is based on population and population is based on the enterprise. Public education has come a long way from 1635 and from 1954 adding diversity to education. Education is what brings new opportunities and develops communities.


Segregation is the separation or isolation of a person by race, ethnicity, or by their social status. This is done in the residential, educational, and the public sectors throughout the United States. Have you ever walked into a store with jeans and a t-shirt on because you saw something that looked cool in the window? Then you look at a price tag and it’s more than you make in a week. All of the sudden the people you were just mingling with looking at cool stuff are nothing like you at all. Somehow, they are now above you, better than you, smarter than you, but are they really?

“By the 1870s, in a region whose prewar leaders had made it illegal for slaves to learn and had done little to provide education for poorer whites, more than half the children, black and white, were attending public schools.” (Foner p.591) Is segregation a problem is smaller cities versus larger cities? Segregation seems to have changed its meaning over time, prior to the civil war, segregation was whites and blacks not being equal. Once this practice was abolished it seemed to turn into an economic status instead of a color or nationality status. In Prince Edward County, Virginia “Ordered on May 1, 1959, to integrate its schools, the county instead closed its entire public-school system.” (“The Closing Of Prince Edward County’s Schools | Virginia Museum Of History & Culture” 2018) They then created private schools for only white students. This continued to leave black students with no education unless they were bused to other schools if their families could afford that, or they were taught by family, the rest were left with no education at all. For many students, regardless of what their background is or where they lived the higher educational environment will be the most racially diverse learning environment they will have experienced in their lives if they are able to afford to further their education.

Larger Cities

Segregation is also related to the income inequality in the United States. Residence and school assignments go hand in hand. Districting is how residential areas are divided to choose what school district you live in. So, in larger cities this might be divided in a number of ways population, tax revenue, or inner city and outskirts. This is where the problems begin to arise. Inner city kids in larger cities all live in the same area and go to the same school. This school may be surrounded by mostly residential units and very few commercial developments. They may have cheaper housing, which have less revenue. So, the division of the districts can make for a very diverse school or a very segregated school.

Small Cities

Our localities are the access points to schools, transportation, jobs, and other local amenities. Where we live determines who we interact with day to day, from classmates to casual social interactions. Does segregation exist in small towns? The answer is yes, as long as there is a difference in color, religion, and class there will be segregation no matter where you go. The segregation is different though. Instead of blacks, whites, Chinese, Mexican’s, or Asians all going to different schools they sit at different tables, they are involved in different activities, they go to different churches. They still have the same education though, many small towns only have one school and you go there from kindergarten through your senior year. So, in small town schools the education is the same no matter what color you are.


Public schools are funded primarily by the state and local government. Very little of the overall funding comes from the federal government. That means the state and local economy decides how much money the schools will have in their budget to properly educate our children. Does the amount of money effect the education they receive?  Most people agree that it does, depending on how the funding is dispersed. “In 1973, a group of Texas Latinos who sued to overturn the use of property taxes to finance public education. Because of the great disparity in wealth between districts, spending on predominantly Mexican-American schools stood far below that for white ones. But in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, a 5-4 Court majority ruled that the Constitution did not require equality of school funding.” (Foner p.1035) In researching how funding is dispersed it seems to be different depending on the local laws and the school boards that govern them across the United States. By 2000, the nation’s black and Latino students were more isolated from white pupils than in 1970. Nearly 80 percent of white students attended schools where they encountered few if any pupils of another race. Since school funding rested on property taxes, poor communities continued to have less to spend on education than wealthy ones. (Foner p.1095)


“While most states accept federal funds and the conditions it comes with, a few states have declined the assistance. As a result, the federal share of funding varies, ranging from 4 percent in New Jersey to 17 percent in Louisiana.” (“Financing Public Education” 2018) Federal contribution includes funds from other agencies to pay for the free lunch programs too.  There are certain things that the states have to do to receive the funding though. Some of the districts believe it is becoming harder and harder to meet the federal stipulations like the standardized testing scores.

State and Local

“Because property values fluctuate, the annual quantity of local funding may vary between school districts and from year to year.” (“Financing Public Education” 2018) I check what my own local area funding comes from versus the next larger city and the next smaller towns. According to the website when I put in Boone County R IV it says our district spent $8037 per student per year in the 2013 fiscal year. Columbia which is 15 miles away spent $10291. Now these 2 towns are very different ours had a population of 1521 in 2013 and Columbia had 115,588.  Ours has one school with a diverse population where Columbia had many elementary, middle, junior, and high schools which are diverse also. Since our schools had less funding according to some this should mean we have lower test scores. We have a lot less enterprise here besides the multitude of churches we have one convenience store, a small grocery store, of course a dollar general, and some other small businesses. So most of our school revenue would come from property taxes and every election there is a new bond issue to raise our taxes for the schools.


Curriculum is a plan of what will be taught and a timeframe for subjects to be taught. Common core was developed to create a guideline to show what a child should know before they advance to the next grade level, it was to be a standard across the country.  In 1948 Education Testing Service was formed. Standardized tests were conducted to prove or disprove if the students of different races and in different areas were more or less educated than the others. The test also is used to determine if the teachers were up to standards to teach. This is one of the things that federal funding is based upon. The Department of Education gathers information from all the states to determine standard practices to make sure students are learning the necessary things across the county.

Common Core

High school curriculum classes in the United States include Math, English, Science, and History. Standard credits vary between states, but in Missouri our children need 24 credits to graduate from high school. Other classes are required in some areas also like home economics, health, and foreign languages. The No Child Left Behind also known as NCLB started in 2002 this program was installed to make sure children were learning before being pushed through to the next grade level. They started testing children in grades 3-8 every year and then again in high school. Schools that fell behind were threatened with less funding on the federal level. In most cases that was the problem to begin with the funding wasn’t there for these school to get the required material to help the students with the tests. “Forty-one states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have adopted the Common Core State Standards.” (“Standards In Your State | Common Core State Standards Initiative” 2018)

Standardized Testing

Standardized testing allows for evaluations to be made among schools in respects to student success and ensures responsibility for teachers that they are teaching according to the standards. A standardized test is a test that requires all test takers to answer the same questions from a group of questions and is scored in a standard manner, which makes it possible to compare the performance of students. There are two types of test aptitude tests and achievement tests. Aptitude tests are to see how prepared a student would be to move into another educational setting like from high school to college. Achievement tests are used to evaluate schools and the effectiveness of teacher’s ability to teach. The problem with standardized testing is that not all students learn about all things across the country. Students in schools that don’t have enough funding for textbooks, don’t learn the necessary things to answer the questions. One of the questions is a plant’s fruit always has seeds and then they are given the answers apple, orange, pumpkin, and celery. So, most students would know that apples and oranges have seeds. But what about pumpkins and celery if they haven’t seen these items at home. If their family has never opened a pumpkin, would they know this answer. This is another part of the public education system that needs fixed. So, before we talked about the district I live in having $8037 per student in 2013 and according to the # of students was 381 with a student to teacher ratio of 14.8 the average standard score was 62.6 for the 2013-2014 school year. Hickman High School, which is one of the two Columbia, MO highs schools had 1814 students and a student teacher ratio of 14.9 and the average standardized score was 47.9. Rockbridge High School had 2013 students with a student teacher ratio of 18.6 and their scores were 58.7 and these schools had $10,291 per student. (“Missouri High School Rankings” 2018) Although these stats prove that the more money a school gets doesn’t mean higher scores, it also isn’t a fair assessment of what less privileged schools across the United States are dealing with.


Public education in the Unites States, although has grown a lot throughout time there are still many flaws in the system. Segregation still exists across the nation weather you’re in a big city or a small town. Funding for the schools isn’t fair and there are no answers to how to make it fair either. The many different economic diverse societies across the Unites States makes it unlikely that any type of standardized testing will ever be a fair assessment of what children are learning or how well teachers are teaching. From the stats shown just here in central Missouri we are not able to predict if better funded schools provide for higher test scores. Redistricting could solve some of the unfair funding practices, but not all of them.



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