Our education system pits students who do not have sharpened pencils against students who are given macbooks to do their homework. Which student do you think will win? Students in schools are held to the same level for things such as standardized tests, but what exactly is fair about this?
Let’s be real: school sucks. It’s where you learn to come into yourself, you get ready to go to college, and you’re forced to sit down and learn whatever content is in front of you. That experience is universal, but an experience that is not, is one where a student does not have access to the materials and tools that they need to learn properly. According to a study done by The Century Foundation, the money that is needed to properly fund schools is shying away from $150 billion dollars per year. That is a tremendous amount of funding that could have been used for the bettering of schools and their students. The reality is that schools need a lot more money than we are currently funneling into them. This is due to the fact that education systems that are run efficiently and prioritize the entirety of the student, don’t just fund pencils and erasers. Funding is necessary to support teachers, classes, more teachers to teach those classes, field trips, engaging hands-on activities, counselors, etc. There is more to a student’s education than learning that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. So where exactly do schools get their funding from? Typically, public schools receive funding federally, locally, and through the state. According to an article published by the Urban Institute, in the 1920’s, the local governments had provided 80% of funding for schooling, whereas today, local and state governments are making up most of the costs. The federal government is covering less than 10% of the funding for these schools. This ties into a bigger issue, which is where this money comes from. On a local and state level, they combine fees, sales taxes, income taxes, etc. On a federal level, they typically use taxes from properties (residential or other) which fluctuates from state to state. Some states rely heavily on property taxes, whereas others do not, and depending on the state, this may cause for the funding to lack quite a bit (especially in urban areas or even poor neighborhoods).
Academically, things get complicated. Between test scores and usable materials for learning, funding is intertwined in a rather difficult way. SAT and ACT test scores do not count against schools for funding, however if a school fails to meet standards ( typically the Adequate Yearly Progress to measure for progress), they will be unable to get some forms of funding, for instance, certain grants. Even More So, students are unable to receive the best education that they possibly can due to the lack of funding. In 2007-2008, it is reported that 92.4% of teachers in the United States had provided an average of $450 worth of supplies for their classroom, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This only accounts for individual teachers in their own individual classrooms. These teachers that spend their money on their classrooms shouldn’t have to. Pencils, tissues, etc. should be provided by the schools. Students and their education require a constant and steady flow of income if they are to be given the best education possible.
Socially, there is an even bigger problem. Students in rural areas typically have access to a variety of clubs, programs, social workers, etc. and yet the students in underfunded schools (which once again, are typically in urban areas) do not have that privilege. Students in the United States typically spend from ages 5-18 in grade school. That is a solid chunk of their lives, and all of those years are extremely critical for a student’s development and growth. If all students had access to a social worker, creative outlets, and a school that could properly meet all of their needs, these students would only thrive. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation made an observation, in which they had stated “Investing in effective social emotional programs for all children can increase the number of productive, well adjusted adults.” If programs can help people in the long run, why not prioritize and invest in them now?
In these instances, well why can’t we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and do what these rural schools are doing? Why can’t students have clubs and activities like them? Well, according to Cora Paulson, a current high school teacher with 10+ years of experience, it gets more complicated than that. Paulson states “there is a disconnect between people valuing education and then people actually wanting to pay the money that is required to create an educational system that would lead to the output people wanna see.” While she emphasizes the issue of preformative activism within the education system, she goes even further by stating “people really like the idea of education” (in comparison to the actions needed to give students a good education). This relates back to the idea that a good education requires a tremendous amount of consistent funding. Nobody wants to be told that there needs to be millions of dollars being poured into our schools.
The lack of proper funding for schools doesn’t just impact a school’s remodeling. It impacts a student’s ability to get a proper and thorough education. If schools, public, and the government cannot find a way to help education, its funding, how much is used, and where it is used, the education system is doomed. If we cannot provide an excellent education to students via funding, there will forever be a cycle of students being provided the bare minimum in schools.