School’s Out

School funding in my state is a giant, tangled unconstitutional mess in which our state legislature is currently wading. Their actions will reverberate for many years to come as they have during the previous 30+ years of trying to establish a constitutional state funding plan.

Their nonsense is already felt in my district which is cutting 34 positions to compensate for the reductions, that even the levy that passed during a recession cannot offset. The current funding formula is a somewhat fuzzy (to me) calculation based on local property taxes + a base per student rate that the state awards, plus an increase cap, which boils down to rich districts getting more money per student, and poor districts getting less and less and less as the residents flee because of poor schools.

This is a really tricky topic with strong feelings even if we leave the money out of it. Everyone wants their kids to go to a good school with engaged teachers and extra opportunities. Some people can afford to move to a community where this is guaranteed, some pay for private schools and some try to make their neighborhood school better because that’s all there is. In many ways it becomes an issue of privilege.

Studies show that the education level of the parents is a consistent predictor of the child’s school performance. Unstated is that the education level of the parent can also predict income level which allows the school district to be chosen rather than dictated by circumstance.

Our district is a mixed socio-economic area which means lots of well-educated wealthy people send their kids to private schools, middle-class folks who make sure their kids take AP & Honors classes, and parents who rent here because it has the best public school they can afford. Then there are the handful of wealthy, well-educated parents who send their kids to public school as a statement. We all do what we think is right no matter what it looks like from the outside.

I am really torn about some of these issues.

On the one hand, if we had the money, I would probably enroll my daughter in one of the nearby private schools because its the kind of opportunity I wished I’d had. On the other hand, I went to inner city schools in a district with the nations 3rd highest drop out rate, during mandatory desegregation and busing, and still managed to get myself over-educated and end up in the suburbs.  Then I think about children in third-world countries so desperate for schooling they share a stick to do sums in the dirt, (dangerously close to my mother’s “some people don’t have any legs” here), and wonder if what we should be worrying about is motivation.

I have very little faith that our GOP dominated state legislature will find a way to be nurturing, kind or fair in their school funding budget, let alone constitutional, as we are talking about 1) money and, 2) people who think poverty is a character flaw.

Out of sight out of mind is apparently a bona fide political strategy. Schools out next Thursday, so that means we can forget all about school funding until August rolls around and we see the class sizes and lack of extra curriculars. 

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