Monday, January 16, 2012

Growing Equity Gap in Public Education -- A Primer


I've been posting the past couple of weeks on the inequity of opportunity between wealthy and poor schools, and the impact it has on our children. On this "MLK Day," I provide a list of resources that can serve as a primer for anyone interested in exploring the growing K-12 funding gap further. This is a must-read for political and educational leaders willing to pull their heads out of the sand and confront this disease that threatens our kids' futures.  Decades ago, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke out against the shameful inequity in American schools. It persists today despite nearly fifty years of federal intervention. Rising inequality "threatens to make America a different and worse place. He dreamed of a nation in which his children ‘will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ But what we actually became is a nation that judges people not by the color of their skin — or at least not as much as in the past — but by the size of their paychecks.” Inequity in public school funding contributes to the increasing gap. Past and current K-12 funding schemes simply perpetuate the inequity of opportunity between schools serving poor neighborhoods and those in affluent communities. School reform will never be fully successful without addressing the inequity of opportunity that pervades our public school system. We continue to raise the achievement bar and blame failure on our teachers and schools, but do nothing to address the growing equity gap between rich and poor students. Reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or “No Child Left Behind” makes the practice of “redlining” official, hitting poor schools hardest with damaging punishments, further weakening schools in the most vulnerable communities and entrenching the problems—concentrated poverty, segregation and lack of human and fiscal resources—that underlie their failure. It does nothing to reduce the inequity of opportunity. The opportunity to learn – for ALL children, regardless of their zip code. “New research on inequality in education indicates that over the past 30 years, increased disparity in family income levels has resulted in unequal educational attainment for students….’ Most Americans are not aware of this “striking and disturbing pattern.’” Also see Michigan leaders hit the panic button making one of the largest cuts to K-12 education in its history, failing once again to address the persistent inequity in funding between wealthy and poor districts, and then marveling at the budget surplus with talk about raising standards even higher. Does money matter in education? A new report says YES. Finland is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence while America continues choosing to ignore the growing economic gaps. There's no shortage of bravado when it comes to shaming schools, but the cowardice persists in dealing with the root causes of lower achievement. Digital technology won’t close the achievement gap between rich and poor students, but it can help raise the floor and make more students academically successful. “It is now clear that the century-long improvement in educational attainment in the United States slowed or declined over the same period during which economic inequality increased.”

1 comment:

  1. Sabrina Pritchett-EvansMarch 26, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    When will children in high poverty district be giving high quality classroom teachers? This is what gives kids the biggest opportunity to learn, but we continue to harp on reduced funding and poverty as the primary cause of lack of achievement. We have some great teachers, but we have a too many poor teachers taht we can't seem to be able to remove from the system. This should be considered mal-practice.


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