In spite of a federal law requiring states to take action to ameliorate the inequitable distribution of teacher talent, many states (and consequently their districts) aren't doing much. Peel off the layers of vague rhetoric devised by states solely to convince the feds of their deep commitment to fixing this problem and therein lies the sorry truth: little concrete action is occurring.
It's tempting to let states off the hook on this issue as school districts, not states, assign teachers. But that assumption ignores a meaningful and powerful tool states have in their arsenal that they just aren't using.
And though many states and districts like to claim that this is a problem that is going to cost a lot of money that they don't have, the reality is that the money's there. It's just been diverted elsewhere.
The feds have long provided states with both the leverage and the funding to address this problem in their Title II funds, replenished each year at a rate of $2 billion. Congress sets this money aside for states to pursue four specific goals, one of which is "to provide low-income and minority students greater access to effective teachers, principals, and other school leaders."
Instead states continue to essentially squander these funds, serving little purpose other than to fuel famously ineffective professional development activities and lowering class sizes by one, maybe two, students. (For a summary of this research, see NCTQ's compendium of class size research.)
If states were to leverage Title II authority as intended, they could require districts to start compensating effective teachers who sign up to work in schools serving high populations of students from low-income families and students of color. Yet, in both our scan and a similar one done by the Center for American Progress where we looked at states' 2017 ESSA plans, we could find only a few states (New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada) even intending to apply Title II dollars for this purpose.
I'd even wager that most school districts aren't even aware that this is an allowable use of Title II dollars—a job that falls to both the federal government and to states to not just communicate, but heavily champion.
If states aren't willing to pressure their districts to up the wages of effective teachers to teach in high needs schools, they could at least use Title II funds to collect and publish data that expose this problem: detailing the maldistribution of teacher talent such that kids who grow up in poverty and/or are of color are far more likely to be assigned teachers who are ineffective, novice, uncertified, lacking majors in the subject they teach, or working under emergency credentials.
States have the clear authority. The money is there. There's nothing in the way but states' recognition that this is a fundamental obligation.