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Kindergarten teacher Princess Bryant prepares her classroom, from where she will begin the new school year teaching classes virtually because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at the Tynan Elementary School in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., September 18, 2020.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Indiana: Does teacher sorting contribute to financial inequalities?



Nicolas Zerbino

Research Analyst, The Brown Center on Education Policy - The Brookings Institution

Prior research shows FRPL students have lower access to experienced and other qualified teachers, compared to non-FRPL students. These patterns holds in Indiana, too. Since teachers are often paid on salary schedules that do not vary based on their school, these sorting patterns will lead to more dollars allocated to affluent settings, all else equal. Do teachers contribute to funding gaps in Indiana?

resource and funding gap table


Within districts, FRPL students have lower access to experienced teachers while simultaneously receiving slightly higher allocations of teacher spending. The result is explained by compensatory staffing, where FRPL students are in schools with increased staffing ratios for teachers (see Table 1) and other instructional support staff (not shown). 

figure 1

Teacher and spending allocations show greater variance looking across district boundaries. Indiana’s high-poverty schools receive higher amounts of teacher funding; teacher spending is higher and even more progressive in high schools (see Figure 1). High-poverty schools have higher shares of novice teachers, and higher teacher staffing ratios (see Figure 2).

figure 2

Approximately 49% of Indiana’s schools, serving 54% of students, are in progressive teacher spending districts (see Figure 3 for an overview of spending progressivity in Indiana’s districts). 


  1. Indiana districts generally compensate FRPL students’ low access to experienced teachers with higher classroom staffing ratios; essentially exchanging quality for quantity. Yet, FRPL students should have many more teachers (smaller class sizes) to be fairly compensated for inexperienced teachers.
  2. The pandemic has accelerated problematic staffing challenges nationwide; thus, threatening the sustainability of this staffing exchange. The state should seek to build out the pipeline for qualified teachers and implement policies to ensure equitable access to quality teaching.


This analysis uses school-level financial data from the Edunomics Lab’s NERD$ database, paired with staffing data from the Civil Rights Data Collection and enrollment data from the Common Core of Data. FRPL is an acronym for eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch, our best proxy for low household income. Indiana uses the direct certification method to determine eligibility.

Continue reading Chapter 2: Does teacher sorting contribute to financial inequalities? →

Read the other case studies (NevadaLouisianaNorth Carolina, Massachusetts, and New York) →


The authors thank Adelle Patten for communications support. We also acknowledge generous financial support from the Gates Foundation in enabling the Brown Center to conduct this work.


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