Solutions for Education Inequality

Imagine this scene: books are being thrown up in the air, classrooms are humid because of the broken air conditioning, students are yelling at the top of their lungs, and teachers are too frustrated to teach. This was the scene of my eighth grade class in 2014 because the school down the street from mine closed. My school days had not always been this way. Just a few years prior, class sizes were small, there were enough books for everyone, students enjoyed the fruits of learning, while teachers enjoyed teaching. My education was the highest of prestige, and I had a fair opportunity for a successful future. As a low income, Black student in Chicago, I had no clue how important these factors were in the quality of education I could receive and the hurdles that I would have to overcome. In 2014, the city of Chicago authorized the closing of 54 public elementary schools, citing a budget deficit of $1 billion as the reason. Of the schools that closed, the majority were in low-income areas and 94% of the schools had over 90% Black student population. Nearly 30,000, predominantly Black and low-income students were displaced to schools far away from their homes.

Education inequality refers to the disproportionate distribution of academic resources, such as school funding, qualified teachers and staff and adequate school supplies to socially excluded communities. Although this was my reality in Chicago, education inequality affects students all across the United States. For example, on average in 2012, the United States spent $334 more on every white student than on every non-white student. This disproportionate per pupil funding is a reflection of decades of systemic inequalities and historical discrimination practices based on race, income and other social factors. one of many unfair funding practices in public education is the use of property tax. Most schools in the United States receive more than half of their public school funding through local property taxes. Property taxes are taxes paid to the local government by individuals, corporations or any legal entity based on the value of owned property and land. Property taxes exclude low income students from quality education because by default these students will receive far less because most of the homes in their neighborhood are rented and have lower property value.

Systemic issues in funding drives education inequality and has detrimental effects primarily on low-income Black and Brown students. These students receive lower quality of education which is reflected through less qualified teachers,not enough books, technologies and special support like counselors and disability services. The lack of access to fair, quality education creates the broader income and wealth gaps in the U.S. Black and brown students face more hurdles to going to college and will be three times more likely to experience poverty as a American with only a highschool degree than an American with a college degree. Income inequality worsens the opportunity for building wealth for Black and Brown families because home and asset ownership will be more difficult to attain.

Reimagining how public education can function for equality and equity relies on us and demanding that our government reinvest funding in low-income school districts. More progressive funding practices will lead to more opportunities for low-income students and students of color. Here are some of my suggestions for creating an equitable public education system and successful educational justice movement:

  1. Concretely, the first solution would be to reduce class distinctions among students by doing away with the property tax as a primary funding source. This is a significant driver for education inequality because low-income students, by default, will receive less. Instead, the state government should create more significant initiatives and budgets for equitable funding.
  2. Stop the expansion of charter and private schools as it is not affordable for all students and creates segregation.
  3. Deprioritize test based funding because it discriminates against disadvantaged students.
  4. Support teachers financially, as in offering higher salaries and benefits for teachers to improve retention.
  5. Invest more resources for support in low-income, underfunded schools such as, increased special education specialists and counselors.
  6. Dismantle the school to prison pipeline for students by adopting more restorative justice efforts and fewer funds for cops in schools. This will create more funds for education justice initiatives and work to end the over policing of minority students.
  7. More broadly, supporting efforts to dismantle the influence of capitalism in our social sector and supporting an economy that taxes the wealthy at a higher rate will allow for adequate support and funding of public sectors like public education and support for low-income families.

Learn more about education inequality and the educational justice movement:

Alliance for Quality Education
“The Alliance for Quality Education is a coalition mobilizing communities across the state to keep New York true to its promise of ensuring a high quality public education to all students regardless of zip code.”

Alliance for Educational Justice 
They are a national youth alliance working towards fair education practices.

Schott Foundation for Public education

Communities for Just Schools Fund
a project of the New Venture Fund, is a nationally-focused donor collaborative. CJSF provides resources in support of community led organizations that are working to ensure positive and supportive school climates that affirm and foster the success of all students.”

Dignity in Schools Campaign
a project of the New Venture Fund, is a nationally-focused donor collaborative. CJSF provides resources in support of community led organizations that are working to ensure positive and supportive school climates that affirm and foster the success of all students.”

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools
PUSHOUT:  THE CRIMINALIZATION OF BLACK GIRLS IN SCHOOLS is a feature length documentary that takes a deep dive into the lives of Black girls and the practices, cultural beliefs and policies that disrupts one of the most important factors in girls’ lives – education.”

"Transforming Public Education: The Need for an Educational Justice Movement"
Warren, Mark R. (2014), New England Journal of Public Policy: Vol. 26 : Iss. 1 , Article 11.

 


References

Center For American Progress, & Spatig-Amerikaner, A. (2012, August). Unequal Education: Federal Loophole Enables Lower Spending on Students of Color. https://cdn.uncf.org/wp-content/uploads/PDFs/UnequalEduation.pdf?_ga=2.89383451.1625904156.1596407942-1777803762.1593838133

Edelson, D. (2020, February 27). How does a college degree improve graduates’ employment and earnings potential? Https://Www.Aplu.Org/Projects-and-Initiatives/College-Costs-Tuition-and-Financial-Aid/Publicuvalues/Employment-Earnings.Html. https://www.aplu.org/projects-and-initiatives/college-costs-tuition-and-financial-aid/publicuvalues/employment-earnings.html

Hussar, B. (2020, May 19). The Condition of Education 2020. National Center for Education Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2020144

Illinois State Board of Education. (2019). Illinois Report Card. https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/state.aspx?source=profile&Stateid=IL

Kagan, J. (2020). What is a Property Tax? Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/propertytax.asp

Semuels, A. (2016, August 25). Why America's Public Schools Are So Unequal. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/08/property-taxes-and-unequal-schools/497333/

Tax Wealth Like Work. (n.d.). United for a Fair Economy. Retrieved February 21, 2020, from http://www.faireconomy.org/wealth_vs_work

U.S. Commission On Civil Rights. (2018, January). Public Education Funding Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation. https://www.usccr.gov/pubs/2018/2018-01-10-Education-Inequity.pdf

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