Key Coverage

Divided America: In Recovery, Many Poor Schools Left Behind

Consider Waukegan and Stevenson, two Illinois school districts separated by 20 miles — and an enormous financial gulf.

Stevenson, mostly white, is flush with resources. The high school has five different spaces for theater performances, two gyms, an Olympic-size pool and an espresso bar.

Meanwhile Waukegan, with its mostly minority student body, is struggling. At one school, the band is forced to practice in a hallway, and as many as 28 students share a single computer.

Last year, Stevenson spent close to $18,800 per student. Waukegan’s expenditure? About $12,600.

And the gap has only been getting wider — here in the suburbs north of Chicago, and in many places across the nation. In the years following the 2008 financial crisis, school districts serving poor communities generally have been hit harder than more affluent districts, according to an Associated Press analysis of local, state and federal education spending.

The result has been a worsening of America’s rich schools, poor schools divide — and its racial divide, because many poor districts are also heavily minority. It also perpetuates the perception that the system is rigged in favor of the haves, at the expense of the have-nots — a major driver of America’s angst in this election year.