There is a simple reason why education is failing in many districts. And it’s not teachers, governance, testing or any other of the major issues. It’s much simpler and more obvious. That reason is money.
The truth is, many school districts are funded locally. Only about 6% of educational funds are provided by the Department of Education. The rest is left up to the states, and many of them have decided to pass the buck and let the local property taxes fund local schools. That may seem like the ultimate in giving control to local groups. But it’s probably the most disastrous policy you could imagine. Let’s think about this for a minute.
Wealthier neighborhoods / regions have much richer tax bases. Obvious, right? That means that these neighborhoods have lots of money to fund their schools. Consequently, they can attract the best teachers, have lower student to teacher ratios, have better learning materials and better access to resources. Conversely, poor neighborhoods, often minority neighborhoods, have a limited tax base, can’t afford to spend money on extra teachers, have a higher teacher to student ratio, and sometimes can’t afford the basics such as textbooks.
The results are predictable. The children from affluent areas have much higher graduation rates, are much more likely to attend college and have higher lifetime earnings. The children from poorer, minority neighborhoods, tend to have lower graduation rates, lower rates of college attendance, and lower lifetime earnings. And they tend to live in poorer neighborhoods, where their children will suffer the same fate.
So much for the land of opportunity. So much for the land of equality.
One of the fundamental roles of our government is to provide opportunity. Not all people will seize that opportunity. And that is OK. But under the current system, it flat out doesn’t exist.
So what do we do about it? Education funding should be national. There is no other way to manage this fairly. Otherwise, each state will be working from a different opportunity platform, and more importantly, each region will as well. Nothing could be less fair.