Districts Headed by African-American Superintendents Lose Funding to Number-Weighting

Last Updated: August 26, 2010

This article appeared in the August 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

Ninety-three high-poverty rural school districts headed by African-American superintendents received almost $8.2 million less Title I funding in school year 2008-09 than they would have received if the formula for distributing these funds did not contain a provision that favors large districts over small districts.

The provision, known as “number weighting,” artificially inflates the count of eligible students in a district based on the sheer number of disadvantaged students, even if they constitute a small percentage of all students in the district. Low-poverty large suburban districts gain at the expense of small, high poverty rural districts.

These 93 African-American superintendents each serve one of the 900 rural districts with the highest student poverty rates among rural districts. That means that more than 10% of these so-called “Rural 900” high-poverty rural districts are headed by an African-American. These 93 constitute more than one-fourth of all 371 African-American superintendents in the nation. Only about 2.6% of all school districts nationally are headed by an African-American.

The average poverty rate in these 93 Rural 900 districts is 39%, more than double the national average poverty rate.

The largest total loss among African American-led Rural 900 districts due to number weighting was $360,800 suffered by the Greenville Public School District in Mississippi, which has a 51% student poverty rate. The largest loss per disadvantaged student among African American-led Rural 900 districts was the $300 loss suffered by Covert Public Schools in Michigan, with a student poverty rate of 48%.

Among states, the hardest hit by number weighting was Mississippi, where 36 Rural 900 districts led by African Americans lost $2.8 million to number weighting. The average poverty rate in these districts is 44%.

Among all 170 rural and small town districts headed by an African American (whether in the Rural 900 or not), losses due to number weighting totaled $11.1 million. These districts have a student poverty rate of 27%, about 50% higher than the national average rate of 18%.

Rural districts are by no means the only African-American-led districts that lose funding due to number weighting. Rochester, New York (over $2.6 million lost), Buffalo, New York ($2.1 million lost), Flint, Michigan (almost $2.0 million lost), Springfield, Massachusetts (about $1.8 million lost), and East St. Louis, Illinois (over $1.4 million lost) top the list of number weighting victims among African-American-led districts.

This story was originally posted on the blog of the Campaign for Formula Fairness.

Join the campaign to fix the inequities at www.formulafairness.com.

Read more from the August 2010 Rural Policy Matters.