Report Finds “Equity Funding” Has Not Closed the Achievement Gap in Portland Public Schools

By Cascade Policy Institute

A new report published by Cascade Policy Institute has found that Portland Public Schools’ decade-long practice of allocating more funds to schools with low academic achievement has not helped to improve scholastic outcomes among non-white students as the district had hoped.

The report Equity Funding has not closed the racial achievement gap in Portland Schools was written by Ethan Rohrbach, a Research Associate at Cascade Policy Institute.

In 2011, PPS adopted the Racial Educational Equity Policy with the goal to “provide every student with equitable access to high quality and culturally relevant instruction…even when this means differentiating resources to accomplish this goal.” This policy cleared the way for the District to spend more in schools where academic achievement was low. This spending differential was termed “equity funding.”

Rohrbach explains in his report, “The prevailing narrative at PPS is that certain groups of students have been ‘historically underserved,’ but if that definition includes money, the narrative is wrong. PPS has invested disproportionately more state funds in low-income schools over time, such as Jefferson High School, Sabin Elementary, and Boise-Eliot-Humboldt—with consistently disappointing results.”

With the district now facing rising labor costs, the report suggests PPS shift its focus away from spending scarce resources toward measures the students themselves can control: attendance, homework, and effort.

The full report, Equity Funding has not closed the racial achievement gap in Portland Schools, can be read and downloaded online here.

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