Beneath the District Averages: Intradistrict differences in teacher compensation expenditures

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Previous research indicates that typical district budgeting practices mask large between-school teacher compensation expenditures (TCE) differences, that teacher sorting drives those TCE differences, and that TCE differences drive overall resource inequities. While scarce accurate school-level resource data has hindered intradistrict equity research, extant analyses have shown substantial TCE differences disadvantage schools with more non-white, poor and low-performing students. Though compelling, these findings are limited empirically because they examine small numbers of districts and conceptually because they examine average salaries, which cannot control for between-school differences in pupil-teacher ratios or student compensatory needs that could legitimately alter TCE between schools. Empirically, this study expands evidence of intradistrict inequities by measuring TCE variation using universe teacher-salary data for schools and districts in 16 states. Conceptually, this study allows for improved intradistrict TCE equity comparisons through a novel weighting approach that adjusts per-pupil TCE to control for differences in schools' compensatory needs and pupil-teacher ratios. Using detailed data for four states, each district's de facto staff-allocation weights are estimated and used to weight schools' student counts to statistically control for different allocations of teachers relative to student compensatory needs. Schools' TCE is indexed by weighted pupil counts to control for legitimate TCE differences associated with compensatory needs. By measuring TCE at the student level while controlling for compensatory needs, this weighted per-pupil TCE approach provides a more precise measure of intradistrict TCE equity than the average salaries used in previous research.

Using descriptive statistics, district-level OLS regressions and hierarchical models on schools within districts, these analyses gauge the scope of TCE inequity and identify the district and school characteristics associated with it. Findings reveal that TCE variation is a widespread district phenomenon, and that districts with greater between-school variation in student poverty, race, and performance have more TCE variation. Within districts, schools with more poor, non-white, and low performing students receive below-average TCE. At the district and school levels, teacher sorting is strongly associated with the distribution of TCE. These findings suggest that intradistrict TCE inequities are widespread and divert targeted compensatory funds. Moreover, intradistrict resource equity deserves increased policy and research attention.