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In Education, Money IS the Key

education

Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

David Sirota, writing at Salon.com examines the results of two new studies on education and found that the principle factor deciding of students perform well is — money.

What real education reform looks like

He summarizes:

The first report, from Stanford University, showed that with a rising “income achievement gap,” a family’s economic situation is a bigger determinative force in a child’s academic performance than any other major demographic factor. For poor kids, that means the intensifying hardships of poverty are now creating massive obstacles to academic progress.

Because of this reality, schools in destitute areas naturally require more resources than those in rich ones so as to help impoverished kids overcome comparatively steep odds. Yet, according to the second report from the U.S. Department of Education, “many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding.” As if purposely embodying the old adage about adding insult to injury, the financing scheme “leav(es) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.” In practice, that equals less funding to recruit teachers, upgrade classrooms, reduce class sizes and sustain all the other basics of a good education.

Put all this together and behold the crux of America’s education problems in bumper-sticker terms: It’s poverty and punitive funding formulas, stupid.

For years, private education corporations have consistently blamed teacher unions for poor results in our nations schools, but the reports shoot down this myth. Sirota:

We’ve also learned that no matter how much self-styled education “reformers” claim otherwise, the always-demonized teachers unions are not holding our education system back. As the New York Times recently noted: “If unions are the primary cause of bad schools, why isn’t labor’s pernicious effect” felt in the very unionized schools that so consistently graduate top students?

The conclusion is that in order to improve education for all students, we must combat poverty and reform the funding system:

Instead, America’s youth need the painfully obvious: a national commitment to combating poverty and more funds spent on schools in the poorest areas than on schools in the richest areas — not the other way around.

Within education, achieving those objectives requires efforts to stop financing schools via property tax systems (i.e., systems that by design direct more resources to wealthy areas). It also requires initiatives that better target public education appropriations at schools in low-income neighborhoods — and changing those existing funding formulas that actively exacerbate inequality.

I have been saying something similar for years.

My two-part proposal has been 1) to create an affordable model school infrastructure and make sure all schools meet the standards (physical plant, class size, resources, and 2) pool all school funds at the state level and distribute them based on a per-student amount to every school.

Schools in poverty-stricken areas would be given additional funds to meet needs (nutrition, etc.) not found in wealthier areas.

As Sirota notes, it’s a tough sell in the current political environment, but it’s one of the most important obstacles to ensuring the prominence of American for generations to come.

-Chris

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December 9, 2011 - Posted by | Democrats, Education, GOP, Politics, Republicans, Tax Debate | , , , , , , ,

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