Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 7/Student Soapbox

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Foundations Chapter 7 Student Soap Box

Jonathan Kozol.jpg

Last semester me and some of my students were lucky enough to spend some one-on-one time with [Jonathan Kozol][1] who wrote (among several other amazing books) Savage Inequalities [2]. The book is a passioned account of the plight of many inter-city school kids in grossly underfunded schools. His work has helped to shed light on the injustice of the system by which our schools are funded.

In lecture on this topic, I mention a school district in Douglas, MA spends a little less than $8,000 per year per student while schools in neighboring Lexington, MA spend over $25,000 per year per student. These discrepancies are largely due to money obtained through property taxes: Douglas is in a poor area; Lexington an affluent one.

Situations such as these led the courts to this conclusion: the quality of child's education in America is a function of the wealth of his parents and neighbors.

So, I ask you:

Is this true?

Is this fair?

Should rich communities be allowed to spend thousands more dollars per year on each child?

Should they have to give some of their money to the poor communities?

Would you be willing to pay higher taxes in your community so someone else's kid can have a better education?


Add your response below. Extra credit will be awarded to multimedia responses.

Bring on the socialism. Equality for all![edit]

Wow is right. I think that some of the tax money that rich people pay should go towards funding for schools that do not have the funds. Would taxpayers paying higher taxes even put a dent in some of the funding needed to help underfunded schoools? All schools should get an equal share of funding for their school. All children deserve not just a good education, but a great education. Msmhobbs04 (talk) 13:29, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

Wow. I wonder what the differences would be like around here. How would you go about finding out the numbers or are the figures a closely guarded secret? Anyway, of course it isn't fair and I'm a little unsure how this could be permitted to continue. Doesn't the cycle of poverty continue if children in a poorer school district don't have as much access to funding? Maybe it's because the taxes paid are based on the resident's income. The money should be placed in 1 big pool to be equally distributed, in my opinion. All of the children would benefit from equality in education funding. Ldomm002 (talk) 02:45, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

These are shuch shocking numbers and its hard to believe that this type of extreme inequality still exists! I think that this is very true and that Mass. is not the only state and those are not the only cities facing this issue. This is definitely a highly debated issue that is occurring all over the country. In my opinion, no child should face a lesser education due to their parents income or the neighborhood they live in. Some parents choose to spend the additional money and send their child to private school (that is their choice and their money to spend how they please). In terms of public education, I do not think one child should be better off than another. I am not sure how exactly it would work, but it seems to me the money should be spent equally and all children receive an equal education. In the grand scheme of things we need to be thinking about the generation as a whole and educating all these children to the best of our ability (not just one or two select group of wealthy children). In turn, our society will see greater benefits! Khedl002 (talk) 02:05, 26 July 2009 (UTC)khedl002

I would say that all schools should have equal opportunity and be provided with the same amount of money among other things. I am not going to get into taxes and everything else...but possibly just collecting all taxes the way they have been. And take the same percent from each person the pays taxes. This bulk amount of money then divided evenly among all schools in, say, the state of VA. I do not agree just because a school is in a poorer location there should be less money given because there are less taxes. I believe there are many choices that can change to make it a better atmosphere for all students. Sston008 (talk) 23:28, 25 July 2009 (UTC)

I really feel public schools should be equal no matter what neighborhood or area they are in. Unfortunately that is not the case now and may never be the case. All students are expected to perform well in schools yet so many schools are not at all up to the standards of some of the better schools. People always say that all children should be treated equal and all students should be given the same opportunities within the school system, however how can that be said when schools all over the country are struggling to provide the necessary materials to give these students an excellent education. I feel giving all children an equal education is always going to be a struggle. Lwill031 (talk) 18:05, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

I believe that all schools should be on a more equal playing field. It does not seem fair that some schools really suffer while others flourish. There needs to be some kind of standards that are equal for all. All students should have the same opportunities and should not be punished because they are from a poor community and therefore go to a poor school with little funding. I believe that all states needs to be equal with what they are given per child. I do not believe that it would be right for someone who is rich to be responsible for paying for other children just because they have more money. Something needs to be done per state. Aferg006 (talk) 02:05, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

I do not believe that it is fair to have some schools funded better than others within the same state. I feel that all schools should be funded equally regardless of whether they are in an affluent or a poor neighborhood. I do not feel that it should be taken from people's taxes however, and I do not feel that the more affluent schools should have to give funds to the poverty stricken schools. I feel that there needs to be more state and government funding available for the poorer schools, so that it can be equal in funding to the affluent schools. I feel that there are different ways that the funding can be made equal besides taking it from people's taxes, or taking away from the funding of the more affluent schools. As opposed to taking away from their funding, find ways to make the poorer schools funding equal. Raise money, have fundraisers whatever it takes to provide equality among funding for schools. Rburt005 (talk) 15:58, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

I find it shocking that some school districts spend less than $8,000 per year per student yet other school districts spend more than $25,000 per year per student. Although this is true, I do not believe that this is fair and I think that there should be equality for all students and school systems. If rich communities are allowed to spend thousands of dollars per child, then the poor communities should be able to do this as well. In order to make it fair, I think that the rich communities should have to give some of their money to the poor communities. Although many probably would not agree, I would be willing to pay higher taxes in my community so that another child in a poor community can have a better education. This is probably because I want to be a teacher and I greatly value the educational quality of all students. Afett001 (talk) 18:29, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

As negative as you've made the below choices for responses sound, I doubt anyone will pipe up for them. I do think the situation is true, I do not think it is necessarily fair– but to be the blatant pessimist, not much in life is fair. It is funny how many people are willing to lend their voice for support whenever the term equality pops up, but when it comes to be taxed for such things they bite their thumb. Socialism has become that of a negative term in this country, and for gods know what logical reasoning. Regardless, it's going to be quite impossible to bring equality to every child's educational experience unless absolutely everything were publicly funded and supplied identically. It'd also call of a full fledged strict national curriculum and standards as to not bring discrepancies to any district in teaching methods and material. It's an optimistic and benevolent outlook, but a bit of a naive one too. The best bet is to fund organizations/programs to help better education in these areas through means of monetary contributions and social networking. Or slap me for being silly. Hsmit022 (talk) 17:40, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

I think that all counties should have an equal amount they spend per child. If one county is richer than another I believe they should use the extra money for other things. That way tax payers will not get mad because their money is not going out of the county. Another option could be that the state regulate the amount each county spends per child. Maybe the state could come up with an average for all the counties in the state of Va, then distribute the money somewhat equally. However with this said, some counties have higher taxes while others do not. If a family cannot afford to live in that county that pays higher taxes then maybe the state can pick up the "poor" county they live in and help. Not sure that there is such a way this could happen. One question that I have is, does the state already do something like this? I believe that I have read something that is very similar to the guidelines that I just discussed. Does anyone know if this is true?Hcomb003 (talk) 19:42, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

I believe that all schools in a state should be given an equal amount of money per student per year, plus an area cost of living adjustment. I don't believe the more affluent schools should have to give up funds to a lesser affluent area and I don't feel I should have to pay higher taxes in my area to support schools in another area. Funding should be equal and regulated by some state agency and all schools should have to meet the same minimum technology and supply standards. I don't understand why all schools aren't already equal in this manner. Sciaston (talk) 20:07, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

I think that Virginia's public school should be funded as equally as possible. Before I moved back to Southside Virginia, I lived in the Alleghany Highlands in the second smallest county in the state. In 2006, the per pupil expenditure rate was $12,441 compared to $8,271 in Mecklenburg County. Unfair you say? How does this happen? It's simple..little county has a small tax base due to the majority of the land being owned by the federal government, a large resort, and Dominion Power. Funding is based on an index from the state corporation commission which is the basis for school funding. That equals more money for fewer students, which most would agree is unfair. I am willing to pay higher taxes in my locality which would benefit students in this county. However, I am not willing to foot the bill for everyone else. Lack of funding effects students and teacher alike. We are tired of trying to keep up with the Jones' when we aren't even in the same neighborhood. Modern technology is not considered a new notebook and two pencils (though for some it is). It is time to look at the distribution of resources and find a solution to this funding dilemma. Acrow005 (talk) 23:30, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

So now, we must dive into the politics of the situation. To be honest, this is not something I have to consider. I do not have children, nor do I have the financial security to send someone else’s children to school. I do not even think the wealthier, more affluent people in our country can afford a tax increase for education right now. Otherwise, we would witness some type of reform going on in our current system. Of course, I believe all children should have an equal, quality education regardless of socio-economic status. I just do not think higher taxes are the best way possible. Let us propose greater legislation. More feasible solutions. Are we really moving entirely away from our capitalist roots? By the way, I attended Jonathan Kozol’s appearance at ODU. What an honor that was! He is magnificent! Abitt002 (talk) 04:24, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

Socialism? Um, no thanks. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't socialism bad? When Russia was (and still is) socialist, didn't America look on them with disdain because we were (are) a superior, free nation? Since that was (and still is) correct, why is it that today our leadership wants to make everything socialist? From insurance to healthcare, and now education? This is very wrong and should not even be considered. People claim they want to make education "equal". Well, "equality" has two sides- the good and then bad. While this "equality" could mean that all students across America would have new, well-outfitted schools to attend, it could also mean that our (already in-debt) government would not have enough money to support all of the nations schools, causing a lowering of standards and putting schools in a worse place than many of them are today. Gone would be the chance for wealthy kids to attend private school or for gifted kids to attend magnet schools. And isn't all that the opposite of what all educators are trying to accomplish? In conclusion, "equality" is relative. Sbutl016 (talk) 19:30, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

I strongly believe that there is a strong correlation between the quality of a child’s education and the economic status of their parents and neighbors. Since educational funds are usually collected by surrounding property taxes, it is sensible that higher quality schools are going to have parents who are in at least in the middle class. These parents also are more likely to do additional funding to school, through fundraising and donations. However, if the quality of schools depends on the local community, it does not seem entirely fair to children who attend schools with lower SES. Children never have a choice in where they live and go to school, and in many similar cases, neither did their parents. So the question of who should pay for schools in poor communities: the surrounding wealthier communities, the poor communities or someone else like the government? This is a very controversial issue because it involves a child’s education. One could argue that wealthier communities could afford to give a few thousand dollars more each year on less affluent students. Another side could dispute that they any community is responsible for education and that there is a risk that their own children would suffer from a some lack of funds, especially children with special needs. Personally, I think it depends on the attitudes of the privileged and underprivileged communities. I think if parents of poorer communities are willing to be highly engaged in their child’s education and make their community a more positive place, then I think that more affluent communities can spend more money. I would also be willing to pay higher taxes so that everyone can have a better education; however I know that there are many others who strongly disagree with that. These decisions are strongly influenced by political, social and moral aspects and will not exactly happen overnight.Adart001 (talk) 17:32, 25 July 2009 (UTC)

Wow how unfair. I thought that our schools would be equal by now and yet another dilemma. I am not willing to pay more taxes for another child however, I do believe that the state should do something to regulate the use and distribution of the state tax to the schools in a manner that it would be distributed equal for all schools. Unfortunately we know that the rich support and create the rich. These communities who house the wealthy only attract and let in the wealthy therefore, the poor are not welcome and let's face it could not afford to live in these areas. Having communities separated by the level of financial achievement is what keeps this unbalanced system going. I do not thing that wealthy and middle class parents would not be happy if they know that their tax money would not be supporting their childs education or their immediate school system. As American citizens we should want and do everything possible so that all students are offered the same education but honestly I think this may be impossible. Bpenn005 (talk) 00:23, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

The problem we are talking about is resources and funding for them...I feel sad for the kids who have to go to school without the basic necessities (desks that are usable, libraries, money for books, etc.). I have visited many different inner-city schools where the classrooms looked like war zones with paint peeling, big chunks coming off the walls, limited playground areas that are in shambles (not safe for children to play on), etc. While it would be nice for these schools to receive funds to purchase technology to keep up with the standards of affluent schools, it is not an option for them. I think that all schools should be equal in the basic necessities and things such as technology, after school programs, etc. should be something each school district can work on getting the money for their programs that make them stand out from other schools. As a parent of two, it is enough that my husband and I have to pay taxes for our own two...we do not have the extra funds to help other children at this time...that is where corporations, celebrities, politicians, and organizations can make donations to help support. I am not trying to put the bulk of responsibility on others, but I think that the above mentioned, have more resources to help the needy. We need to find a way without putting too much financial strain on the tax payer to make all schools equal for the just basics necessities.Scarlett1 (talk) 03:04, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

I do think that this is a very unfair situation. However, I will not even begin to propose a solution, simply because I am not educated on the options. But I do think that within public schools, and especially in the same state, there should be standards and such that would limit funding for one school and provide funding for another. I would think that public schools should be "more equal" than this. Alucy001 (talk) 03:09, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

It is indeed unfortunate that our schools continue to parallel the economic conditions surrounding them. Just because children come from low tax paying households doesn't mean they should be robbed of essential resources and tools in the classroom. Of anything these schools should be granted more funding. Statistically, these are the schools with the highest drop out rates, these are the schools that need the strongest resources on their side. However, it is only fair that each child is awarded with the same opportunity as the next. Everyone is deserving of a proper education, both rich and poor. In an ideal world, funding would be equally rationed to educational facilities. Yet, I'm afraid this is wishful thinking on my behalf as well as everyone that's written in this category. Lets be real, though a step closer, the politics of this issue will continue to spawn controversy until we create a plan that both parties can agree on. Rpaige (talk) 07:21, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

It is unfair for anyone to not receive the same education as others due to socio-economic situation. Nevertheless, it is improper from the state to take as little as $8000 for each "poor" student and have better funding for those students that are better off. A generalized rate per student should be reached for each state in order to have a fair education system for all. Ehern004 (talk) 16:12, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

Well, I can see this from both sides of the coin. I am a mother with two daughters, one almost 9 and one 12. We selected from many different houses to find one that would meet our needs as a family but also be in a good school district. While there are many other houses that I wish we could have purchased in better school districts, they were not affordable. I also am a student studying to be a teacher and find it grossly unfair that many students are stuck with whatever they get based on where they live. This happens with technology, building upkeep, resources and most importantly teachers. Very few teachers want to go teach at the school that is housed in an old building that has limited resources and the lowest economic group of students, but those are the schools that need great teachers the most. Those are the kids that really deserve all of the resources that we can provide them. The students that are attending school districts that spend more money on their students are generally coming from areas that have higher economic standards. It should be no different. There should be a state or federal mandate that sets the amount that should be for each student and the rest should go into a fund that helps to provide resources to schools that need them. Many schools are able to form corporate partnerships and also raise money through PTA which helps to attain resources and supplies that could not be funded by the school. While I am a tax payer and did the best I could to move into the right house so that my daughters were in a good school district that would help them it is still the responsibility of me as a parent to help my children achieve their educational goals, no matter where we lived. Jnewh001 (talk) 18:11, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

I think that it should be controlled a little better. It would be a differently story if it was only like a thousand dollar difference but a thirteen thousand dollar difference is a little crazy. The state of MA should be able to regulate it a little better. I also don't think that taxes need to be raised, just the way that the money is spent needs a little revision. For instance, if they left the taxes the same and just sent a small amount to the neighboring community then maybe the difference wouldn't be so bad. Rcoll029 (talk) 04:10, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

This is true, and it is an unfortunate circumstance. There needs to be a change in how this work. Yes, I would be willing to pay higher taxes to help the education of a student in a poorer area. Or pay the same amount and have the money be distributed more evenly across the country. It seems that poverty is one of the most influential factors in slowing students' educational progress. Therefore, some serious educational and social reform needs to take place with the central focus of the reform being how to combat poverty. Mbrowder (talk) 17:25, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

Those poor kids' parents could move to a better neighborhood. I'm not taking money away from my kids to give it to them.[edit]

Generally speaking, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The way our schools are funded is something endemic to the American way of life and thinking, I contribute more, thus I get more. It is not at its heart a flawed ideal, it has made America what it is today in many ways (for better or worse). In a selfish human sense, the only sense we can use, this system is pretty much as close to fair as one is going to get in the broad scope of things. The question I think becomes not is this system fair, because a fair system is never possible, but rather is there a better compromise available. Almost certainly yes, many things about the way our schools are funded can and should be fixed. But I don’t think that rich communities should be penalized merely for having more, or limiting their expenditures on students. That ends well for neither party and just creates more animosity. Taxing people for the benefit of others, has never been popular in America, and while I may say with my bleeding heart firmly pinned to my sleeve that yes, people should be taxed for the benefit of others, I accept the fact that that is no where near a “fair” system and is a biased viewpoint.

In the end the question comes down to, would I personally be willing to pay more to improve someone else’s child’s education? And the answer is, in my heart of hearts, “How much would I be making yearly in this scenario?”

Because being altruistic is nice and all, but we're all utilitarians when no one is looking. BitterAsianMan (talk) 17:05, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

For the most part, I do believe the following statement is true. The quality of a child's education in America is a function of the wealth of his parents and neighbors. Although with every rule there are exceptions. Wealthier school systems tend to have more resources and more equipment. But, the questions lie in how a teacher uses these resources. Does more mean better? Or does being practical have its advantages? I do find this to be fair. What you are saving in property taxes can be used to further their education at home. Communities should be allowed to spend whatever money they have collected for education. They should not be required to give some of their money to the poor communities. The taxes they pay go toward services in their jurisdiction. If families in the poorer communities want those resources, they are within their rights to move. I have a hard time saying, "money means better". The law requires free and appropriate education. The law does not require a certain dollar amount to be spent per pupil. If the parents of the students in poor communities think that more resources means better education then they should move or find another alternative for their child. I would focus my attention on if the teachers are doing the most they can with what they have available. I would not be willing to pay higher taxes in my community for someone else's kid till it was proven to me that they were not being provided a appropriate education. Jtmitchem (talk) 02:02, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

Uh...is there another option?[edit]

As appealing as Socialism is there has to be a middle ground. No it's not fair that poor communities have less money for their schools. However it is just as unfair to the communities that have more resources not to use them because of an unfair advantage. It would be great if all things evened out but that almost never happens in any society. I would like to point out that in Communist Russia and China that there is a great emphasis on education and the Government run program worked fairly well. In Russia students were tested early for their gifts or skills and then placed in appropriate schools that would nurture that talent. But this is America where we can chose our own destiny and I know that the poverty cycle is vicious and hard to get out. The solution is not going to be solved by Robin Hood taking from the rich to give to the poor. Perhaps the solution is generalized school funding. Each school is given the same amount of money each year, or base it on the cost of each student. It costs X amount of dollars per student and this scool has 800 students so; 800X = amount given to school. I would end the funding by income tax process. Where as this process works for many areas in Hampton I imagine there are some it does not work for. We need to make the system work for everyone. If we can level the playing field a little (which has never been done in history) we can truly offer opportunity for everyone.Jnemo001 (talk) 06:29, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

Fair no, Reality yes, it is unfortunate that situations similar to this exist. At a little over 3 to 1 ratio that is extreme. If the property owners are willing to pay more taxes for the education of the local children, that is one advantage of living in a larger city. Although on the State level I would hope that something could be supplemented to allow for the discrepancy in funding.Mlipl001 (talk) 02:53, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

No I do not think it is fair for students of poorer communities to have less than students of wealthier communities. But, I also do not think it is fair for those parents that are more well off to have to pay more money in taxes for someone else ... I don't think we should become a socialist country and the "rich have to give to the poor" ... seems like government spending could be taken from one area that the government really doesn't need to spend in and put that money towards the schools that could use more funding ... Hcogg001 (talk) 16:00, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

Nothing is ever black and white, especially in this day and age. I believe that the discrepancies in moneys spent per child will never be resolved, nor is it necessary that the gap be closed. Instead, there should be a minimum amount that must be spent per child no matter the district. However, if the minimum is met across the board, then the more affluent neighborhoods should not be penalized for having more income. If not all portions of the district can met the minimum, then the necessary amount needed to met the minimum should be allotted from the rich to the poor, being sure to take only as much as is needed. This way socialism is not instituted, but at the same token, everyone has at least a decent starting point.Scrai010 (talk) 23:07, 26 July 2009 (UTC)