Investigating Critical & Contemporary Issues in Education/School Level Disparities in Funding
Bruce Edwards: Brunswick
School Level Disparities What are school level disparities? School level disparities have a wide range of areas like class sizes, teacher quality, resources, facilities, and neighborhoods. The disparities can be measured from school to school within a district, state, or nationwide. The disparities I will focus on are school resources on the federal, state, and local levels. School Resources play a major role in school level disparities. Schools resources come from different places federal, state, and local funding. The federal government provides about 9% of education funding, the state contributes about 47% of education funding, and the local school district provides about 44% of education contributions. In the federal level there are not many differences, where the differences come in are on the state and local levels of distributing the funds. State funding for elementary and secondary education is generally distributed by formula. Many states use funding formulas that provide funding based on the number of students in a district. Some formulas are weighted based on different factors such as the number of students with disabilities, the number of students living in poverty, or the number of students for whom English is a second language. In some states the formula is calculated so that states with less access to local funding receive more money. These areas are mainly higher poverty areas. On the local level property taxes support most of the funding that local government provides for education. Local governments collect taxes from residential and commercial properties as a direct revenue source for the local school district. Wealthier, property-rich localities have the ability to collect more in property taxes. Having more resources to draw from enables the district to keep tax rates low while still providing adequate funding to their local school districts. Poorer communities with less of a property tax base may have higher tax rates, but still raise less funding to support the local school district. This can often mean that children that live in low-income communities with the highest needs go to schools with the least resources, the least qualified teachers, and substandard school facilities. School level disparities are different in every school district in every state. I believe the funding by the three different levels is accurate, the federal does their part, the state does their part, and the local does theirs. But where we need the checks and balance system is on the local level within the schools. The district needs monitor the way each individual school raises its money and how they are using it.
Works Cited 1. epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v10n30/ 2. febp.newamerica.net/background-analysis/school-finance 3. blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2009/09/rich_schoolspoor_schools_thegapgrows/
Future educators should be concerned with the lack of equalities in public schools. Educators, as well as parents, should expect their students to gain the knowledge needed to help prepare them for life after high school. Our responsibility is to ensure that these students get the same opportunities across the nation, regardless of social or economic status. School disparities like the unequal disbursement of educational funds, quality of teachers and parental involvement affect the outcome of our nation’s future.
Schools in low poverty areas are more likely to offer their students a better learning environment, while those in high poverty are more focused on security rather than education. In 2005, it was estimated that school districts around the nation spent approximately $600 billion. (Fillardo, Vincent & Stein, 2006, p. 5). While this amount of money is large enough to spread evenly amongst the nations school districts, it is important to realize how this money is spent. Schools with students from wealthy neighborhoods were able to invest their money in student education by equipping their classrooms with better educational resources or upgrading their science labs or performing art centers. (Fillardo et al., 2006, p.5). Schools from the high poverty neighborhoods however were more like to spend their share of the money by funding their basic repairs such as new roofs or asbestos removal (Fillardo et al., 2006, p.5). The difference as to how this money is spent plays an important role on the educational achievement of the student body. While schools in the better neighborhoods are doing their best to equip their students with the latest in technology, the poorer schools are struggling to keep their students dry(Fillardo et al., 2006, p.19). Since it does make sense that a rich neighborhood can afford to spend more money on their kids, is it fair for the low income students to not receive the same educational benefits? A study made by the National Center for Education Statistics(NCES) showed that in 1996 the average amount spent per student in the nations high poverty schools was approximately $4,300 while schools of low poverty spent approximately $6,800 per student. (NCES, 1996)
Another difference in the public schools system is the quality of teachers available. It’s true that an educator should have the same values regardless of school district. We depend on them to educate our children, to produce the intellectual capital that is the foundation of our future as a society (Carey, 2004, p.3). This is another difference that the school districts must battle with. While we all want the best for our children, it is also a fact of life that those with money are able to attract the best qualified teachers to their schools. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 holds teachers accountable for providing high standards of education (Thomas, 2006, p.1). However this is a difficult task for high poverty schools to meet. In 2002 it was estimated that approximately 10% of the teachers in elementary and middle schools had 3 year or less of experience in low poverty schools, while high poverty schools averaged 17.5%. (Ingersoll, 2002, p. 15). Experience matters, educators are supposed to bring out the best in a child, but without the proper experience some children might be left behind. Teacher turnover also affects the quality of education being offered to our nation’s future. “The resulting shortfalls of teachers are forcing many school systems to resort to lowering standards to fill teaching openings….resulting in high levels of underqualified teachers and lower performance” (Ingersoll, 2004, p. 3). In 2004, schools in urban high-poverty area averaged approximately 22% of teacher turnover, compared to 12.8% in low-poverty. (Ingersoll, 2004, p.9-10). Better salary was the number one reason for their dissatisfaction. Lack of resources also contributes to teacher job dissatisfaction (Buckley, Schneider & Shang, 2004, p.2). As mentioned before, the high poverty area schools tend to spend their money on school renovation rather than educational resources. While money is important to keep teachers in the classrooms, better working conditions also tend to make a difference whether a teacher stays or goes. Better conditions often mean adequate air or better lighting, but it also has to deal with the resources available to perform the job to the best of their ability. “Teachers might be willing to take lower salaries in exchange for better working conditions.” (Buckley et al., 2004, p.2). With this concept in mind it is easy to understand why schools in wealthy neighborhoods have the advantage to pursue teachers with more experience and education. Again students in low poverty are given an educational advantage over their peers in high poverty.
Class and socioeconomic status is also a major difference between our schools. There are students entering the classrooms without the proper foundation, which begins at home. It’s not because parents in high poverty areas care less for their children’s education, but the lack of parental guidance play an important part in creating that foundation, which is needed in the classroom. Parents in low income neighborhoods are sometimes forced to work more than one job. (Gollnick & Chinn, 2009, p. 98). This fact of life often leaves children alone to fend for themselves. This type of neglect is typical in the homes of many low income families. Children in low income families tend to look at high school as a stepping stone to their future jobs, while those from wealthy families set their eyes on a college education after high school. It is for this reason why students from low income families take fewer math and science courses and tend to stay away from the college life and instead focus on a vocation after high school.(Gollnick & Chinn, 2009, p.110)
It’s true that money can’t solve all of our problems, but we need to focus on the ones that money can make a difference in. Money, or the lack of it, is the main reason why children across the nation are learning at a very different rate. Our government needs to step in and find a solution to the education gap within our schools. Spending money evenly across the board regardless of the school district is not the answer. We need to focus on those schools with a bigger need to succeed. We need to equip our nation’s schools properly, not only to provide a safe learning environment but also to ensure that all children are given the same quality of teachers, resources, and technology that will better guide them to a better future.
References: Buckley J., Schneider, M. & Shang, Y., (2004). The Effects of School Facility Quality on Teacher Retention in Urban School Districts. Retrieved September 6, 2009, from the World Wide Web: http://www.edfacilities.org/pubs/teacherretention.pdf Carey, Kevin. (2004). The Real Value of Teachers: Using New Information About Teacher Effectiveness to Close the Achievement Gap. Thinking K – 16. Retrieved September 12, 2009 from the World Wide Web: http://www2.edtrust.org/NR/rdonlyres/5704CBA6-CE12-46D0-A852-D2E2B4638885/0/Spring04.pdf Filardo, W. M.; Vincent, J. M.; Sung, P., & Stein, T. (2006). Growth and Disparity: A Decade of US. Public School Construction. Retrieved September 1, 2009, from the World Wide Web: http://www.21csf.org/csf-home/publications/BEST-Growth-Disparity-2006.pdf Gollnick, D. M. & Chinn, P. C., (2009). Mulitcultural Education in a Pluralistic Society (8th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education. Ingersoll, Richard M. (2002). Out-of-Field Teaching, Educational Inequality and the Organization of Schools: An exploratory Analysis. Retrieved September 6, 2009, from the World Wide Web: http://depts.washington.edu/ctpmail/PDFs/OutOfField-RI-01-2002.pdf Ingersoll, Richard M. (2004). Why do High-Poverty Schools Have Difficulties Staffing Their Classrooms With Qualified Teachers. Retrieved September 6, 2009, from the World Wide Web: http://www.americanprogress.org/kf/ingersoll-final.pdf National Center for Education Statistics. (1996). Do Rich and Poor Districts Spend Alike? Retrieved September 1, 2009, from the World Wide Web: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs/web/97916.asp Thomas B. Fordham Institute. (2006). Fund the Child: Tackling Inequity & Antiquity in School Finance. Retrieved September 5, 2009, from the World Wide Web: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/27/fd/0b.pdf
There are several different ways to classify disparity in the classroom. I have listed three ways that I feel is a major contribution to the disparities in the classroom… • Money • Technology & Facilities • Class Size These are the top issues that show disparity in the educational field.
Money: The biggest piece of the stimulus pie is education. Georgia is receiving at least $2.3 billion for public schools. And the number of jobs saved or created so far -- the state doesn't know yet. "We know that that money helped save jobs and avoided teacher layoffs," said state school superintendent Kathy Cox. But how many? Cox is now counting the education jobs saved -- and she must tell the feds how many by next month. "It all came so fast, and you want to make sure it's being engaged for student achievement," she said. The biggest, single chunk of the money -- $900 million -- is merely bailout money for Georgia's schools following the huge state budget cuts. It's not enough to prevent teacher furloughs. But much of the rest of the education stimulus is extra cash for two areas: $351.4 million for schools in poor neighborhoods $324.3 million for special education programs. And special ed programs, in particular, are suddenly awash in more cash than they've ever seen at once. "Has this ever happened before in your experience?" 11Alive's Jon Shirek asked Philip Mellor of the Henry County Schools. "In twenty-four years," Mellor answered. "No." Mellor is executive director of Henry County's Special Education Program. His share of stimulus money for special ed -- $7.5 million. And that more than doubles what he usually receives every year from the feds for special ed. So, at Hickory Flat Elementary, special ed students learn alongside general education students. And in one classroom, you will find two teachers for 13 students -- because of the stimulus grant. "We have an incredible opportunity to shore up some of the programs for students with disabilities," Mellor said, "and to have a great impact in a very short period of time from this incredible influx of money." The state is still figuring out how to track actual spending, after the fact. Because ultimately the feds could demand wasted money back. "I think the hardest thing about this money is going to be documenting what actually happened with it," Cox said. "And that's okay, because I'm a taxpayer, too." Bruce J. Biddle and David C. Berliner (2002) provide the following reasons for our overall indifference to educational inequity in their article "Unequal School Funding in the United States." The first culprit is historical experience (Biddle & Berliner, 2002). In the past, people lived in communities with like standards of living (Biddle & Berliner, 2002). They agreed with funding their schools with their property taxes. As time went on, those people began to migrate to cities in a rush to fatten their pockets and "move up" (Biddle & Berliner, 2002). After becoming upwardly mobile, they relocated to the suburbs (Biddle & Berliner, 2002). This meant that the money that had been pouring into these newly-abandoned cities, in the form of property taxes, left as the soon-to-be suburbanites took their money to the outskirts. The result was decreased funding for city public schools and increased funding for suburban schools. This disparity was no secret, but the idea of continuing to fund urban public schools was not plausible for those who had used the city to move up and had then moved out (Biddle & Berliner, 2002).
Blaming the poor for their impoverishment is the second reason for indifference (Biddle & Berliner, 2002). Americans tend to be effort-oriented people (Biddle & Berliner, 2002). They feel that if you are living in poverty, it is because you have not worked hard enough to climb out of it. Poverty seems to be synonymous with laziness. Most of us have heard people talking about poor people as lazy people who do not do enough to change their situations. This thinking is summed up by the belief in a culture of poverty and is also to blame for indifference to educational inequity (Biddle & Berliner, 2002). Americans seem to think that poor people are simply uncouth and content with their lower status. This thinking blames the poor rather than the situation that keeps them poor. Certainly, attending a school that does not encourage you to succeed and fails to give you the tools for success puts a person in a situation that is less than encouraging and more than a hassle. However, if we fail to look at the inadequate schools and skip ahead to simply look at the poverty we tend to think that if we have made it, they (the poor) can too. More specifically, some people think to themselves, since I wanted to make it, I did. If they wanted to make it, they could. Those who have not made it are lacking something necessary for success. The result is the old if-they-don't-help-themselves-why-should-we-help-them mentality. No one thinks that success may be out of their reach due to inadequate schooling. So, since the well-off leave the poor behind and then blame them for their predicament, educational and economic disparities continue in a cycle of poverty due to inadequate education
Technology & Facilities: Due to the money that is sent to each school district, this affects the technology and facility aspect of the educational need. If you have a school that is in a poverty stricken area, you will see very few technological advantages. They will not be equipped with computers or even better schools to learn in. The school may need to be repaired and just put aside. The more financially stable areas would be offered these accommodations. Many feel that this is not fair or right. This is one case that I have found to have got higher about trying to get the same treatment of other schools.
On Thursday, January 8, 2009, the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) passed a temporary increase to the state mandated class size limit in an effort to help districts through the tight economic times. The DOE estimates that the mandate could save districts up to $200 million on the cost of hiring new teachers, as they cope with declining state funds and falling property tax collections due to the recession. The waiver adds two students to most classes up through the eighth grade for the 2009-10 school year. The increase in class size does not apply to special education, English as a second language, fine arts or foreign language classes. Miller County School Superintendent Robbie Phillips said the mandate gives the system more flexibility but that many of the system's classes typically run below the state requirement. Before the mandate passed, kindergarten classes could have no more than 18 students, primary grades capped off at 21, elementary classes at 28 and middle school classes at 28 as well.
"The current budgetary constraints will likely result in a slight increase in our teacher to student ratio," Phillips said. "The (mandate) would result in our school system requiring fewer teachers for the next school year." "The system spends approximately $60,000 in salary and benefits a year on the average teacher," he said. "If a small increase in class size caused Miller County schools to hire five fewer teachers, it would save the system approximately $300,000 in employee costs," Phillips said. Valdosta City School System Superintendent Dr. Bill Cason, a former Miller County school principal, said he appreciates the mandate, but the increase in class size will have little impact on their school system in the immediate future. "If things get really tight, then we could increase class size to the maximum," Cason said. "But it will help other districts, especially smaller districts that are struggling." As a part of a system-wide overhaul to improve teaching and learning, the school system dropped the class sizes well below state requirements, he said. Increasing class sizes will help the system within the Early Intervention Program, he said, two-fold. The system is able to provide sharper academic focus for more children while also receiving more funding. In regards to state funding, the Early Intervention Program generates a substantial amount of money, and educating more students within the program generates more funds for the system, Cason said. In 2006, a law was passed in Georgia to limit class sizes in core classes from kindergarten through eighth grade. By: Dana R. Himes – Brunswick Campus