As poverty becomes a major focus point in the educational field, I think it is prudent to mention the differences in funding that poor and rich schools receive. I came across this article last week:
According to the article, “Nationwide, states and localities are spending an average of 15 percent less per pupil in the poorest school districts (where average spending is $9,270 per child) than they are in the most affluent (where average spending is $10,721 per child)”. Arne Duncan comes right out and calls the economic inequality “separate and unequal”, an obvious reference to Brown v. Board of Education.
Now, I don’t think spending more money will automatically guarantee improved test scores or school situations, but I think it’s definitely a sign of how the communities that have more resources give their children more educational opportunities, while the communities that have less provide less. I think it’s important to focus not just on spending, but also what that spending does for children in a community. Wrap-around food programs, extra-curricular activities, enrichment programs, field trips, improved instructional materials, etc., are all possible items that could help children living in poverty compete with the students who attend wealthier schools. We saw in class the relation between money and educational access, and while the rich get richer, the middle class shrinks, and the poor flatlines, we as educational leaders have to find a way to overcome the growing inequality. We have to communicate the bigger picture that future generations will judge us not by SOL test scores, but by how we help those who need it.
I think we need to be frank and up front when talking to community members about poverty, because as poverty continues to spread into the fashionable communities of the West End and Short Pump area of Henrico, more and more residents will react by moving away, taking their tax dollars with them. We need to find a way to get community members to recognize the problem of poverty and work together to help improve the impoverished while supporting the school system.
I think leaders have to have the temerity to speak up about the lack of opportunities for students living in poverty. It is not un-American to advocate for the poor, or to ask for those who have to help those who have not. Franklin Roosevelt said “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little”.