Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Feds Can Do More to Promote Funding Equity, Report Urges

This from Politics K-12:
Forty years after the Supreme Court ruled in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez that state funding formulas for public schools that are based on local property taxes are not unconstitutional, some civil rights leaders and education advocates say it's time to push for new efforts to address decades-long disparities in how resources are parceled out to public schools.
Among those efforts: Urging the U.S. Department of Education to design a Race to the Top competition to reward states that overhaul school funding formulas that would distribute money based on the actual needs of students and not where their schools are located.

And another effort: Pushing for more federal civil rights investigations and compliance reviews of states and schools districts where disparities in per-pupil spending, as well as in distribution of resources such as access to college-preparatory courses and effective teachers, have been persistent.
Those recommendations, among more than a dozen others, are outlined in a new report from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights that was released today in Washington. The group's "action steps" for federal, state, and local governments, derive directly from a broad agenda recently put forth to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan by a federally appointed commission on education equity. That agenda—which focuses on five areas to help close the resource and achievement gaps between poor students and their middle and upper-class peers—was developed by the Equity and Excellence Commission. That panel, led by Christopher Edley, Jr., the dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, and Mariano-Florentino "Tino" Cuellar, a law professor at Stanford University, released its report in February after three years in the making.

The Leadership Conference hosted an event in Washington today that is tied to the release of its action plan and featured discussions with members of the equity commission, including Edley, and David G. Sciarra, who is the executive director of the Education Law Center in Newark, N.J., which represented the plaintiffs in the long-running school equity lawsuit in New Jersey known as Abbott v. Burke.

Lawsuits filed by advocates over the years have brought some equity to school funding—perhaps most notably the Abbott case. In that case, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that the state's school aid formula was not constitutionally adequate for most poor children, and followed up with later rulings that ordered the state to provide additional per-pupil funding to 30 of the state's mostly urban, low-income districts. But long-lasting overhauls of school funding in other places remain elusive, advocates say...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand the idealistic ends of this initiative but doesn't it seem ironic to be giving federal tax dollars to a handful of states who are electing to make their funding seem more equitable? These federal tax funds have been gained from our citzens throughout the nation, with much inequity built into that very process. Who are the feds to decide what is equitable funding when their very process for collecting funds is inbalanced and certainly far from equitable.

Feds need to realize they are not Robin Hood and it is up to the states to determine what is equitable and what is not based upon the resources which are available within that state. Is right for me as a citizen of Connecticut or Massachusetts, states which might be judged as having a high level of equity in state student funding, to have my federal tax dollars given away in some competition among inequitable states. If I am Mississippi or North Dakota citizen and have lousy equity and no state political will to make changes but the greatest need, how does the fed's plan help me or my kids?

Bottom line is the courts might say something needs to be more equitable but if it doesn't have the power to legally implement specific changes (which has not at this point) then what are we trying to do? Face it, if it was "illegal" or "unconstitutional" then the feds would have something to enforce instead of trying to bribe states into competing for their own money.

Anyway, do we really want the feds involved in school funding or equity of services when you take a look at how great a job they are doing with things like medicaid/medicare? Is it even practical to attempt to compare the educational systems of Fayette or Jefferson to Owsley or Fulton Counties when almost every non-educational element (per capitat income, healthcare access, industry, transportation, etc.)of those counties is so completely different? It is not just an education issue, it is a much larger state development matter.

How are high - middle suburb citizens going to react when their limited clusters of schools and higher tax rates merit only $7000 per student funding and the other 100 rural counties are garnering $10,000 a head with lower taxes because Frankfort wrote a fancy enough report to garner a few million dollars for a couple of years form the feds?

I am pretty sure most of the documents upon which this nation is based are specific in their identification of "equality" (identical, sameness) being our focal point, not "equity" (fairness, ethical). Those are two different terms with the later providing significant variance depending on the varible concepts of what one considers "fair" or what is "just". Equal seems much more specific and concrete.

I am certainly not advocating for the days of "seperate but equal". We can make facilities and resources "equal" but equity usually includes an expectation of interpretation and engagement about elements beyond the school building. We can build two schools for 500 kids and provide both with 1000 textbooks and 40 teachers - that is equal. But if one is located in a district of poverty and another in an area afluence, how do we determine equity? If the later community's average household income is $100,000, how do make equitable decision dealing with that range of disperity?

Not trying to be mean spirited, but equity is based on comparisons and in the U.S. that is a wide range of conditions. Our politicians have proven time and again as of late that we can't trust our them to make choices based on a common sense of equity or values. Well to do people aren't wealthy because they were unfair or unethical anymore than folks of poverty are poor because they were treated unfairly or without justice. So how does equity didn't create their condition, how can it be apply to remedy much less determine what is equitable?