Education and American Poverty
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The Catholic Churych teaches that proper education and formation of every person should be a first priority of a society. Unfortunately, the way that education is provided in the U.S. today results in poorest children of the country pretty consistently receiving an education substantially worse to that which is available to those of our middle and upper classes. American funding for public primary and secondary schools is largely based off of property taxes collected from the area which results of course in less money available per student in poor school districts. The substandard funding received in poor school districts leaves poor children with schooling grounds that frankly promote failure. There is an undeniable disparity in high school graduation rates, and test scores between the general student population and those living beneath the poverty line. The poor education received by poor children in America is resulting in communities as a whole remaining in poverty over the course generations. The fact that the injustice of such poor opportunities being provided to these children says a lot about our society and none of it is good. The current system of providing children with free and open schools throughout the United States needs to be drastically changed insofar as eliminating the difference in opportunity provided for children of different economic classes.
Public school funding is different in every state since each one creates its own way of distributing money from various sources. That being said, every state in America leaves a large portion of public school funding to be dependent upon property taxes which vary very dramatically from district to district. To illustrate, in 1998, public school districts in Alaska that were ranked at the 95th percentile for per-student funding received an average of $16,546 per student for the year, whereas school districts ranked at the 5th percentile received only $7,379 on average. Other “winners” in the inequality derby included Vermont (where school districts at the 95th and 5th percentiles received an average of $15,186 and $6,442, respectively), Illinois (where the figures were $11,507 and $5,260), New Jersey ($13,709 and $8,401), New York ($13,749 and $8,518), and Montana ($9,839 and $4,774). ( Biddle and Berliner, 2) Trends like this continue today and are a huge barrier to many children seeking an education. Also the correlation between districts in the 5th percentile as described above and America’s impoverished areas is undeniable. Statistic after statistic can be given demonstrating the disparity in school funding but really it comes down to the simple fact that on average a child attending an American public school who lives in poverty will have significantly less money spend on his education than one who lives in a wealthy community will.
A school with significantly less funding much like a family living in poverty must face the decision of what to go without. Sometimes children must learn without heat or A/C or with poor technology and tools, but there are two factors that stand out above the rest. Better funded school districts can afford much more qualified teachers which has a huge impact on a child’s learning. A teacher with more education, experience and just overall skills has the “choice” between a school that can pay more and has the resources and air conditioning which the other school lacks. Not to say that every teacher who works in a poor school district is bad, but wealthy schools in America really have the first choice when it comes to teachers, and this definitely works against children in poor districts. Another huge factor when it comes to better funded schools is the ability to have smaller classes. This luxury again and again turns out better achieving students and is just one more thing acting as a barrier.
Kids living in poverty and already have painful issues to tackle at home, and they do not need added obstacles when it comes to their schooling. The current system however decreases a poor child’s chances of success even more when it under funds the public school districts available in poor communities. The result is a huge gap in education. The New York Times has published a roundup of recent research showing the growing academic achievement gap between rich and poor students. It prominently features a paper by Stanford professor Sean F. Reardon, which found that, since the 1960s, the difference in test scores between affluent and underprivileged students has grown 40%, and is now twice the gap between black and white students.(Friedman 1) This gap which is no just undeniably present, not just persistent but is actually increasing in magnitude over time demands that something be done. An under performing group of individuals cannot be given sub par resources and be expected to improve.
The consistent lack of action over the years in this setting has resulted in trend of generations of Americans being born in poverty, receiving substandard education, and consequently remaining in poverty their entire life. “Nationally, official Census numbers show 9% of seniors in poverty. Among children, 22%–15.6 million–live in poverty.(Bello, 1)” These numbers along with many more imply that more and more kids are being born into poverty. One big reason for this is that children of poor families are 6 times more likely to drop out of high school than wealthy children, and 46 percent of Americans who grew up in low-income families but failed to earn college degrees stayed in the lowest income quintile, compared to 16 percent for those who earned a college degree.” The simple reality is that with the current system, children in the United States who actually need extra guides and resources are being sent to public schools that are greatly under funded resulting in a proper formation of poor children being an exceptionally difficult task. If the current system is not changed poverty in America will continue to rise and this country will continue to leave its poorest with an even poorer opportunity.
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