Since school funding is based on local taxes, the differences in the quality of education from county to county is astonishing. The New York Times spotlights one scenario in particular that shows the vast difference: neighboring Fairfield and Bridgeport in Connecticut.

The two Connecticut school districts sit side by side along Long Island Sound. Both spend more than the national average on their students. They prepare their pupils for the same statewide tests. Their teachers, like virtually all the teachers in the state, earn the same high marks on evaluations.

That is where the similarities end: In Fairfield, a mostly white suburb where the median income is $120,000, 94 percent of students graduate from high school on time. In Bridgeport, the state’s most populous and one of its poorest cities, the graduation rate is 63 percent. Fifth graders in Bridgeport, where most people are black or Hispanic, often read at kindergarten level, one of their teachers recently testified during a trial over school funding inequities.

Elizabeth Harris and Kristin Hussey bare out the details of the case, showing that the differences go far beyond what the taxes are paying for. In Bridgeport, when money runs short there's no way to make it up while parent associations in Fairfield run fund-raising events and can help pay for field trips or private tutors for their kids.

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