I had read Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities as an undergrad so was curious to see it pop up again, in a budget course of all places.  However, this is a very appropriate place for Kozol’s work to appear as it spotlights the Underlying Issues of education and how they are and are not intertwined with money.

On the one hand, money is everything.  For example, Kozol describes the differences in funding for schools when those funds come primarily from local property tax.  ”Total yearly speding–local funds combined with state assistance and the small amount that comes from Washington–ranges today in Illinois from $2,100 on a child in the poorest district to above $10,000 in the richest.”  How did it come to be this way?  I’m sure Larry can help trace the decisions and it seems obvious to me that those making the decisions are going to protect their own first–thus the inequities.  It infuriates me that, as Kozol points out, privileged society sees themselves as willing to “sacrifice” more in order for their children to have a better education.  Do they really believe that, given the same income, the poorest parents wouldn’t spend just as much on their children?!  I also wonder if there are states that have bucked this property tax system and distribute money equally to all the state’s children.  It seems unlikely we’ll ever be able to convince anyone with a “better” anything to give it up in order for someone else’s children to have more.  Money IS everything when you consider these underlying inequities.

So, let’s imagine the other scenario: that money isn’t everything.  I have to hope this to be true.  I have to look at the charter system, which is generally given far less funds per pupil than the traditional system but often returns better or equal results.  I have to look to classrooms like Mrs. Hawkins where wonderful learning and support are happening.  These are hopeful things.  But money isn’t just about schools, it is about the students’ whole lives.  In neighborhoods with no work, no grocery, no prospects, no support, no educational leadership–how are these students going to compete?  And, most frighteningly, could the American economic/social system even support a 100% well-educated population?  I try to stretch my mind to consider what that might look like…

I’ll close with the analogy of the burning building brought up by Howard Fuller:  If the building is on fire, we must rescue as many as we can while we still work to put out the flames.  I suppose this must be true with school finance too–we move forward knowing that some students are being burned and strive to put out those flames (without igniting new ones).  I’m looking forward to this course!

7/30/2012 17:08:56

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