Issues & Insights

Liberal States Flunk The Education Equity Test


Race-obsessed liberals talk a good game when it comes to “equity.” But they could learn a thing or two about delivering it from conservatives who focus on opportunity, not outcomes. That’s one conclusion you can safely draw from a state-by-state analysis of education equity by WalletHub.

In a report released in August, WalletHub looked at 12,927 school districts throughout the U.S. and ranked them comparing average household income and per-pupil spending at public schools in those districts. The bigger the difference, the worse the state scored on equity.

It’s not hard to see a pattern in the results. Of the 10 states with the least equitable school districts, seven are solidly blue: New York, California, Illinois, Oregon, Maine, New Jersey, and New Mexico. On the map below, the darker the color, the more equitable the schools.

Of the 10 with the best equity scores, all but one – Minnesota – are Republican-leaning states.

WalletHub took the average score of 49 states (there wasn’t enough data on Hawaii to include it), and found – lo and behold – Red states ranked far better than Blue states: 17.6 vs. 32.71. 

What can explain this? After all, liberal states are constantly blathering on about making education more equitable. New York’s education department, for example, boasts that “our mission is to ensure that every child has equitable access to the highest quality educational opportunities, services, and supports.”

WalletHub doesn’t speculate as to the reason, so we did a little additional research.

Throwing money at schools doesn’t improve equity. If anything it’s the opposite. Consider, again, New York. It spends the most per pupil of any state in the nation. Yet its school system is also the least equitable in the country, according to WalletHub. At the other end of the spectrum is Iowa, which tops WalletHub’s list on equitable education but spends 59% less per pupil than New York.

More broadly, the average per-pupil spending by the 10 least equitable states is $8,507, Department of Education data show. Average spending at the 10 most equitable states is $6,519.

But what about education choice? Turns out that states ranking higher on equity are also more likely to give parents greater opportunities to chart their children’s education course.

EdChoice – a pro-education choice nonprofit – ranks states based on what percentage of students are taking advantage of education choice opportunities (if any) offered by their state governments: education savings accounts, school vouchers, or tax-credit scholarship programs.

Seven of the top 10 education choice states score better than average on equity, while 16 of the 22 states that have no choice programs score do worse than average on education equity.

This isn’t to suggest that we have definitive proof that education choice – rather than mouthing platitudes – leads to more equitable education opportunities. But it is something worth exploring. Anti-choice states are more likely to lock the poor into failing schools, while in pro-choice states, parents have at least a chance to improve their children’s lot.

Equal opportunity, not equal outcomes, is what matters. And liberal states that deny parents educational choices are harming the very people their “equity” programs claim to help.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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