You may be familiar with the concept of gerrymandering in politics, a pretty terrifying process that seems to have become commonplace in America, where boundaries are redrawn to form electoral districts that favor a specific party.

It’s one of the most pressing issues to our democracy moving forward, and just this year, the supreme court ruled that the federal government has no role to play or responsibility to step in when parties cook up all kinds of nonsensical district shapes to gain a political advantage.

Educational Gerrymandering

According to a project from the nonprofit EdBuilt, a somewhat similar phenomenon exists in the shaping of new school districts around the country. This seems to be a result of the fact that district funding is generally tied to local property tax dollars, meaning wealthier communities tend to see more substantial “local” funding for education.

The report details how small, affluent communities around the country are working to fence themselves off, and as a result “those on the fortunate side of the line can keep their tax revenues just for their hyperlocal schools while those on the outside are often left with fewer resources for a needier student population.”

128 communities have attempted to secede from their school districts since 2000—a number that continues to grow

The project, “Fractured: The Breakdown of America’s School Districts” notes that a system of education funding tied to local property taxes, along with a variance in “secession policies” and rules across states encourages these wealthy communities to pull away.

States set different statutory processes for school district secessions that isolate students and resources.
States set different statutory processes for school district secessions that isolate students and resources.

The real kicker as EdBuild notes, is that “district lines may divide students by race or class, and there is little that can be done. In this way, every line drawn is a new fracture in the map of American communities.” Basically, the rich get richer and a system of inequitable schools persists. Wealthy, majority white districts are self-segregating and ensuring that they get the best of the best, while schools and students in lower-income communities are left behind.

According to the report, there are several steps that states can and should take to combat this educational gerrymandering. For example, states like Georgia and Florida have disallowed secessions completely, while other states have at least made it a more complex and difficult process.

For more information on how affluent communities are opting out of districts and creating there own new elite, hyper local districts and for individual case studies, check out the full report from EdBuild here.