Unequal Education: Yearning for Change
Education is the most vital part of a fulfilled life. Without education, we do not have the sturdy ground base to start building up towards all of the dreams we have ever wanted to reach. With a quality education, we have the power to make our own lives, become who we want to be, and do what we want to do. Everyone is entitled to an education, for it benefits our lives in many ways. As quoted from DW Made for Minds, in an article titled “Knowledge is Power: Why Education Matters”, written by Ute Shaeffer, states that “Education empowers, and education promotes greater participation.” There is no greater truth than this- that education gives us the tools we did not know we needed. However, some students are less successful than others, and it is in no way their fault. “Children in rural areas and in conflict regions have even fewer opportunities to become educated, while girls around the world continue to face disadvantages in education. There is still much to do.” Students today are still trying to overpower those who believe girls do not have the right to an education, or that lower-income places have less-qualified schools. There is, in fact, much to do, as Schaeffer states. Students all over the world are struggling to learn and grow due to the alarming deficit of student success in schools. The main problem is that the impact of the property tax unequal funding of schools is causing an achievement gap. An achievement gap refers to a persistent difference in academic performance or reaching educational goals between different groups of students (in this case, poor and rich). This achievement gap is influencing a decrease in student success all over the world, and even leads to difficulties obtaining a career in the future.
A journal from Stanford Cepa titled “The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: New evidence and possible explanations”, written by Sean F. Reardon, states that “The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier.” This means that the achievement gap is growing each and every day, simply because nobody has made any action on the issue. The journal also states that the achievement gap based off of high-income and low-income students today is nearly twice the size of the black-white achievement gap. This is astonishing news, for about fifty years ago, the black-white achievement gap was two times larger than the high-income and low-income students gap. The tables have turned in a dangerous, menacing way. Why has this happened? There are many possible explanations as to why such a detrimental gap has been formed. “The gap appears to have grown at least partly because of an increase in the association between family income and children’s academic achievement for families above the median income level: a given difference in family incomes now corresponds to a 30 to 60 percent larger difference in achievement than it did for children born in the 1970s.” Nowadays, money and where we live determine everything for our futures, even our education. Also, the gap could be so large because of parental investments in cognitive development, as said by the journal. The gap size has nothing to do with the student’s parents and their education, but more so, how much money their parents have. This is a sickening phase of education that children are struggling to grow through.
When students are not taught at high levels of quality, they have no other choice but to be given a difficult time when testing. An article from Brookings titled “Income and Education as Predictors of Children’s School Readiness”, written by Julia B. Isaacs and Katherine A. Magnuson, claims that children from low-income families “perform less well on standardized tests compared with more advantaged youth and are less likely to graduate high school and complete college.” Children that are struggling through this grow up to be financially unstable because they can not land a decent paying job, for employers often look at school records to track success. The article states that “Children born into families at the bottom fifth of the income distribution are twice as likely as middle-class children to remain in that bottom bracket as adults.” Even if these children are capable of so much more, their education is holding them back from achieving tremendous things. The visible problem here is that education is now doing the opposite for students as what it is supposed to do- which is to ensure success while obtaining knowledge and everyday skills from attending school.
This lack of efficient schooling often leads children down troubled paths for the rest of their lives. An article from ChildFund International titled “Poverty and Education”states that “Poverty and education are inextricably linked, because people living in poverty may stop going to school so they can work, which leaves them without literacy and numeracy skills they need to further their careers.” Without these skills necessary to work, children notice from a young age that school is just a waste of time. Students dropout of school because if they are not gaining anything from attending, they could be searching for jobs to start making money to support themselves. Students need to be properly educated, but that can only happen if their schools are properly, equally funded. Poverty does not wait for anyone to “catch up”. In other words, poverty is occuring in various places all around the world, and it will not wait for families to overcome it, even if their education, and then their success for the rest of their lives, is in jeopardy. The very least we should be able to offer these children and these families is a place where they can go to get a high-quality education. Property taxes, however, are restricting them from obtaining that well-deserved education.
An article from LSU Online titled “How Does Poverty Affect Education?” states that low-income areas interferes with a child’s physical readiness, cognitive readiness, and social-emotional readiness. When a student is raised in a low-income neighborhood, odds are, their parents are struggling to provide for them. No matter how hard they work, they do not have surplus money to buy extra amounts of food, clothing, or body care products. They may even be struggling to pay the gas and water bill. If a student’s parents are constantly working, the student probably eats fast, greasy, fattening meals for dinner. This, in turn, leads to poor health, which makes their bodies prone to illnesses that are left untreated, causing more school absences. When students live in these areas, violence and crime rates are extremely high, causing children to stay indoors in fear of getting put into risky situations at parks or playgrounds. Because of this lack of exercise, students gain even more weight, becoming more unhealthy every day. So, it is vital that a student’s school provides time at recess to play or provides extra-curricular activities like sports after school. However, in low-income areas, the schools do not have enough money for after school activities. But, the high-income neighborhoods have sports teams, clubs, dance teams, choir, and much more than the low-income schools because they have more money coming into their schools. These low-income students also may face situations at home that could interfere with how they think about life. If they watch their loved one being abused, is struggling due to stress, do not have enough money, and often do not sleep well at night, they are going to remember that feeling for a long time. When they go to school, they will still have those memories and feelings in the back of their minds. The school atmosphere does not make them forget because it is not at a high level of education. The school does not have enough tools, papers, technology, or exercises to keep the children’s minds off of what could be happening at home. Due to the lack of focus, the students also perform poorly in school. They will isolate themselves from teachers and other students and will be hesitant to make relationships. On top of this, if students are not being taught an adequate amount of vocabulary per day, or if their mind is somewhere else, their cognitive development decreases. The article states, “Many students who cannot understand the words in their texts will resist reading altogether. In addition, students will refuse to participate in discussions they do not understand simply because they do not want to ask for clarification.” Children now think that because they do not understand, that they are simply unintelligent. They are afraid to look silly in front of other classmates, so they do not ask for any further explanations about lessons, which leads to poor results when testing does come. Lower-income schools has many more effects than just learning, it affects the community, the household, the children, the students, the families, and the well being of others.These ideas listed above are directly related to the achievement gap and the reasons why it has grown so vast over the last couple of decades. The achievement gap has been the ultimate division between success and failure for children all around the world.
Children from low-income areas are left to “make-do” with what they have, which is undeniably inadequate. Why are these children suffering?
An article from The Atlantic titled “How Ineffective Government Funding Can Hurt Poor Students”, claims that 14 states are currently providing less money to poor community schools with a lot of students coming from poor areas. It also states that 19 states have a funding system that does just enough to meet the standards in schools that lack valuable resources and are unable ensure a quality education. There are over 11 million poor students in the United States that are not receiving the education they deserve. Schools struggle to purchase enough textbooks, calculators, rulers, papers, etc due to the property taxes and low income.
In another article from Hechinger Report titled “How does underfunding actually affect schools? Four Questions With Greene County Superintendent Richard Fleming” written by Kayleigh Skinner, Fleming speaks out on the effects of low-income property taxes on the school itself. He claims the school had to cut positions and end jobs for some employees of the school because they did not have enough money to pay them. He says his district is in “survival mode”, meaning they are struggling just to provide the basic needs for the children. The school is behind on technology, cannot provide the arts, sports, or a choir. The students are simply missing out on what they should be more than capable of having.
An article from The Odyssey titled “Lack of Materials Hinders Student Success” written by Julia Taboh explains that the absence of necessary materials takes a large toll on student success, for without them, students inevitably perform at lower rates than the highly funded school students do. Teachers often have to pay for classroom resources from their own money, or are forced to use old books from other schools that do not even cover what is in their plans or the school’s curriculum. They also have no clear way to track data of what schools need what textbooks and what curriculum would best fit. This data is essential for It allows the school to see what they already have and what they need more of to be successful. Without this data, it is clear that the needs are not met, for they have no way how to reach them.
Not only do these children endure difficult lives at home, for low-income areas often lack resources, they are being sent to school to suffer even more difficulty with developing and learning.The middle class seems to dissipating as the gap between the rich and the poor grows wider and wider. Funding has been cut a tremendous amount and in some states, pre-K education has been cut entirely and some schools had to deny some kids from attending school due to population. The states have not hesitated to cut funding, yet they haven’t made any true effort to gain money to support the schools. Most of the children from poor areas come to school without have had eaten breakfast yet, or have just encountered secondhand smoke on the way to school, abuse, neglect, are dressed in light, tattered clothing and torn shoes. The bottom line is that their lives are difficult enough- why should they suffer even more in the place they are supposed to succeed? In the place they have a right to succeed? Everybody talks about the gap, but nobody does anything to fix the gap, or even attempt to do so. Children from these areas are dropping out of high school before they graduate. In an article from The Huffington Post titled “High School Dropout Rates for Minority and Poor Students Disproportionately High” written by Emmeline Zhau, it states that there were about 3 million teens in 2009 that did not have a high school diploma or were not enrolled in school at all. The drop out rate for low-income students is five times greater than the dropout rates of high-income schools- 7.4%. High school dropouts are not able to apply for 90% of the worlds jobs. This means that children from low-income areas are denied a job that pays enough to support them before they even get a chance to get an interview for the job; they are turned down on the spot, and it is all starts from the lack of funding in low-income communities. The problem does not stop here, however.
In an article from Huffington Post titled “Why Aren’t Low-Income Students Succeeding in School?” written by Carol J. Carter states that the low-income students that do attend college, they often have to take remedial courses to learn the skills necessary for college. So, even when they are eligible to attend, they are not educationally prepared. Due to the lack of exposure to books and textbooks when they were younger takes a toll on them. For every 300 low-income students, there is only one book. “Children from low-income families hear as many as 30 million fewer words by the age of 4 than their higher-income peers,” Carter claims. They also suffer from language barriers, as 8% of students attending U.S schools are English Language Learners. “Research shows that ELL students are much less likely to score at or above proficient levels in both math and reading/language arts,” Carter continues. This lack of experience from a young age influences their scores and performance by a large amount, and it is devastating to see. Students that have lived a tough life at home also find themselves encountering a lack of stability. These effects of the events at home might differ the student from learning, from doing smart things after school, and ultimately creates immense challenges for the student. Most of these students go home to parents who do not have a high school diploma, and have not made the best choices, therefore creating a lack of role models. They have no one to look up to, so it makes it difficult them for them to take on the responsibility to make a path for themselves. Because they are first generation college students, they often find themselves to be a bit confused, or feel out of place. “Within six years, 89 percent of low-income first generation students leave without a degree,” states Carter. This percentage is alarming because it is all due to the lack of education in their earlier years. These students had the opportunity to grasp their future and to graduate college, but the pressure of it all was much too overwhelming to succeed.
Children are not succeeding simply because of the area they were born in, and this fact alone is why things need to be changed.. The effect the low-funded schooling has on them is tremendous. If they cannot use the tools they need, if they do not learn what is on the curriculum, they are going to be unprepared and undereducated when it comes time to go to college if they choose to do so or to apply for jobs. These children are “doomed” from birth, as they are not guaranteed the right to the education they are entitled to. And the worst thing is, it all starts with the government funding, the ones who know that low-income areas do not earn enough money to properly fund a school. Therefore, we are trapping these children’s potentials into a confined box, leaving them no other option but to be stuck in this constant cycle of inadequacy.
Some people seem to still believe, after all of the aforementioned details of how property tax funding of schools has damaged the youth, that property tax is the best form of payment to fund schools. Although counterintuitive, with property tax funding for public schools emerges a large problem; people want schools to have inequality. It all comes down to this- rich homeowners want to pay for their schools in their neighborhoods, merely because it makes the value of their community increase and makes their area look better than the surrounding regions. The rich families know that they pay a higher property tax rate than the next town, but if this money is going towards a better reputation for them and for their surrounding schools, they are more than happy to give that money up. They know that their schools are better funded, that their students have a higher chance of success, and because of these statements, the homes in the area hold their value. People will want to move to areas where the community’s are elegant, with financially stable schools that acquire more than necessary to implement their children’s success. This is why homeowner’s support the property tax funding of schools. They disregard the condition of the schools in areas of poverty or low-income. These places don’t seem to matter to them at all. They want their schools to be superior, but what they do not realize is that this unequal expenses on schools create the achievement gap as aforementioned. Homeowners want to control the local government and its taxes because it directly benefits their homes, their neighborhoods,and their schools.
An article taken from JSTOR titled “Homevoters, Municipal Corporate Governance, and The Benefit View of The Property Tax,” states that “ The more general issue that homevoting addresses is why school quality has fallen in California and, apparently, in other states that have traveled down a similar path away from local control of school finances.” This shows that states are recognizing this immense gap between student success in contrasting areas, but no one has yet to make an action on this issue. People are hesitant to believe such a gap exists because the test scores are seemingly close in comparison, but what the people do not know is that this is because the highly-funded schools are actually being “dumbed-down” and taught less efficiently than they are supposed to be taught. This makes the people think that the difference between schools in poor and rich areas is simply just the location. But, these rich families are sending their childrens to schools that they think are top of the line, when really, their children are learning at lower, slower levels than they should. The article states, “This is consistent with the findings by several studies that show that greater state fiscal involvement results in less efficient schooling.” Due to these reasons, the quality of schooling is not just decreasing in poor areas, but also in the rich areas as well.
So, what do we do now? Do we add more teachers to the school? The article states that if we do this, the more qualified teachers will be chosen, increasing school quality and the homes around the school. But, what about the extra money the school now needs to pay these teachers? This, in turn, would raise property taxes, which decreases home value. In turn, local voters now have to decide to choose cost-effective schools. The state legislature, however, cannot do the same for the following reasons. States are too large to see the differences between the quality of schools compared to other states. Also, adults that do not have children in school do not want to spend as much as school funding for state level than local level. People that own homes that they can one day sell to another family that does have kids are still interested in the quality of schools and the condition of the surrounding community. The third and final reason centralization causes poor results in schooling is because teacher’s unions replaces homeowners as being the most important group at state level. Although unions raise average spending per student, they make those earnings less sufficient by putting it towards work rules that they cannot acquire at the local level.
An article from The Harvard Gazette written by Christina Pazzanese states that “Your ZIP code and the exact characteristics of your parents seem to matter more,” said Lawrence Katz in an interview discussing the damaging effects of the growing achievement gap. What he means by this is that nowadays it does matter where you are raised and by whom,one parent or two, in a rich community or poor, for these aspects determine your fate. This is an appalling way to look at the achievement gap, but it is sadly true. Katz calls the diversion “The rich and the rest”, implying that it seems to be that if you are not rich, you do not deserve a category, or a name. If you are not rich, you are the “rest”, the people who struggle to get by, who don’t have high quality schools or neighborhoods. Being rich doesn’t necessarily mean who can buy the most expensive things, for it now means being rich determines whether or not you are successful in your future career path or not. This has changed the way young children think, which is perhaps the saddest part of it all. We no longer consider ourselves successful if we are not rich, from high income places, and land a job making over a hundred thousand per year. Our actual intelligence doesn’t even determine our success because of property tax and the achievement gap.
Katz continues to say, “Smart poor kids are less likely to graduate from college now than dumb rich kids. That’s not because of the schools, that’s because of all the advantages that are available to rich kids.” Something has to change if we want to give the youth, the future of America an equal education. Their fates are decided before they can even speak, before they can crawl.
The United States education system is truly at its lowest point, and it all derives directly from the way schools are funded. Our youth deserves an education that will be able to support them throughout their entire lives. Students should be able to wake up every morning with confidence that they are going to do something amazing that day, that they can learn, and grow, and feel safe inside of a school building. They should not have to feel like they are settling for the very minimal requirements of education. We have to push, we have to recognize the faults within the system, and we have to shrink that education achievement gap before it becomes too massive to compromise with.
How Does Poverty Affect Education? | LSU Online. (2017, April 10). Retrieved from https://lsuonline.lsu.edu/articles/education/how-does-poverty-affect-education.aspx
Isaacs, J. B., & Magnuson, K. A. (2016, July 29). Income and Education as Predictors of Children’s School Readiness. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/income-and-education-as-predictors-of-childrens-school-readiness/
Poverty and Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.childfund.org/about-us/education/
Reardon, S. F. (2017, July 24). The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: New evidence and possible explanations. Retrieved from https://cepa.stanford.edu/content/widening-academic-achievement-gap-between-rich-and-poor-new-evidence-and-possible
Richmond, E. (2015, June 08). How Ineffective Government Funding Can Hurt Poor Students. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/06/how-funding-inequalities-push-poor-students-further-behind/395348/
Skinner, K. (2015, April 13). How does underfunding actually affect schools? Four questions with Greene County Superintendent Richard Fleming. Retrieved from http://hechingerreport.org/how-does-underfunding-actually-affect-schools-four-questions-with-greene-county-superintendent-richard-fleming/
Taboh, J. (2017, August 27). Lack Of Materials Hinders Student Success. Retrieved from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/lack-of-material
Zhao, E. (2012, February 14). Dropout Rates For Minority And Poor Students Disproportionately High. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/20/high-school-dropout-rates_n_1022221.html