Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Educational Change/Financing
American public schools run on a certain economic equation. A percentage of tax payer money is used for education. The amount of money is broken down within the individual school system to determine how much will be spent on each student. The wealthier an area, the more money the school has to spend on each student. This can leave many schools at a large disadvantage. School districts also must face the education budget being cut all the time. Stan Karp discusses the impact of tax reform in a 2003 article. The fight to give schools enough money and have equal opportunities is virtually impossible through taxes alone. It costs so much money to run a school, which most areas also come up short. This is why people are always searching for alternative options to help fund schools in America.
Importance of the Distributions of Funding
A problem that also goes along with financing American schools is how the funding is distributed. A special report by the Education Trust states that we spend on less in areas that are highly concentrated with low income and minority families. According to the 2005 analysis, we spend $900 less in poor areas than what is spent in suburban areas which is unfair to the students receiving schooling. Because of this unequal trend, students that live in suburban areas receive better technological equipment and receive higher grades. Poor districts have low-quality equipment which discourages the students from learning. Schools should all receive an ample amount of funding to provide for the needs of its students.
Charter schools exist in many states; they are both publicly owned and financed. Margaret Hadderman wrote an article describing exactly how charter schools work and how they are financed from when they began back in 1988. Although they are “public,” they are not held to many of the public school district’s rules. Charter schools are set up to achieve some goal, and if they produce results then they are able to be free of many traditional standards. They are funded by transferring pre-pupil state aid from the school district. Grants are also issued, and most are on a 3-5 year basis. Aside from the government funding, charter schools can receive financing from private donors and various foundations. These schools often have a theme. Some are based more on science and technology, while others may be more language arts driven. Peter Schrag has written an article about why these schools are not working financially. He discusses the teacher unions fight against privatization, and that bidding wars are a result of schools trying to gain more students.
Andrew Coulson describes school vouchers as a kind of scholarship program. Instead of giving the money to the public school, they give it to a child’s parents in the form of a voucher. This voucher gives them the power to decide what school they would like their child to attend. This idea originated because of the under-performance of many schools. It is meant to hold schools accountable by taking away funds if a student decides to attend another school. The funding comes from a combination of the government and private organizations. This is favored by many republican leaders, with the concept originally advocated by Milton Friedman. Opponents of this idea believe that it is not a fair system because even with a voucher, private schools do not have to accept every student that would like to attend their school.
Corporate funding is a more controversial option being looked at to help fund American schools. This concept can be as simple as a restaurant hosting a school night one evening, and giving 20% of the profits to the school. It can be as large as a computer company providing all the funding needed for technology, but in return would make the curriculum more technology based. In an NPR article, an example of a school who partnered with Pepsi Bottling Group is used to show how this option works. In order for the school district to receive a potential $8.1 million over five years, they agree to only sell Pepsi products aside from milk and school brand water. This sounds like an easy way to earn extra money, but the catch is that the money comes from the actual soda sales at the schools. This upsets many parents, because they see it as the school pushing soda on their children to earn the money.
Corporate funding can also have a line drawn as it relates to wealthy and poor areas. A company is not going to want to support a school that does not give them the publicity that they are looking to receive. Product placement is not very successful, if the families that attend the school cannot afford to buy the product. Small school districts also lose out on this deal. Corporations would likely look to large school districts in order to get the largest profit available.
Kevin Bersett wrote about the movement of parents that is building to block corporate funding. Parents fear that school is becoming more about product placement than it is about learning. Some even fear that children are being brainwashed to an extent. Others argue that favoring a particular product is a small price to buy for so much educational financing support. According to the Michigan Education Report, corporations are not disagreeing with the gains they receive from this type of relationship. They see it as a win-win partnership. They receive publicity, and schools gain the much needed funding. Even with the controversy surrounding the issue, many agree that the use of corporate money will likely stay and expand over time.
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- Public Schools.” Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. Retrieved via the World Wide Web on February 1, 2007. http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org
- Beyond the Bake Sale: Public Schools Look for Alternative Funding to Make Ends Meet. (2007). National Public Broadcasting. Retrieved from the worldwide web on February 1, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20021020110203/http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/features/2002/oct/schools/index.html
- Corporations donate millions for public school programs. (2001). Michigan Education Report. Retrieved from the worldwide web on February 1, 2007. http://www.macinac.org/pubs/mer/article.asp?ID=3749
- Karp, Stan. (Fall 2003) Money, Schools and Justice. Rethinking Schools Online. Volume 18, Number 1. Retrieved from the worldwide web on February 1, 2007. http://www.rethinkingschoolsonline.org/archive/18_01/just 181.shtml
- Schrag, Peter. (1996). “F” is for fizzle: The faltering school privatization movement. The American Prospect. Volume 7, Issue 26. Retrieved from the worldwide web on February 2, 2007. http://www.prospect.org/print-friendlt/print/V7/26/schrag-p.html
- The Funding Gap: 2005. (2005). Retrieved from the worldwide web on February 2, 2007. http://www2.edtrust.org/NR/rdonlyres/31D276EF-72E1-458A-8C71-E3D262A4C91E/0/FundingGap2005.pdf