Sunday, November 10, 2013

Our policy makers are ignoring the poverty in our schools, and slashing funding

The narrative behind many of the plans to radically change K-12 public education is that public schools are failing.  This is a myth.  There is nothing wrong with American public education.  The problem with troubled schools is the poverty-stricken communities they serve. 

We recently posted some graphs which show that public school performance correlates directly with the number of students receiving free or reduced lunches.  Poverty is biggest obstacle for public schools, Okemos Parents for Schools, October 27, 2013.  A recent column sums up the situation:
As I’ve reported before, we know that American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system’s problems are not universal — the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty areas. It also proves that while the structure of the traditional public school system is hardly perfect, it is not the big problem in America’s K-12 education system. If it was the problem, then traditional public schools in rich neighborhoods would not perform as well as they do.
So what is the problem? That brings us to the new study from the Southern Education Foundation. Cross-referencing education data, researchers found that a majority of all public school students in one-third of America’s states now come from low-income families.
How much does this have to do with educational outcomes? A lot. Social science research over the last few decades has shown that two-thirds of student achievement is a product of out-of-school factors — and among the most powerful of those is economic status. That’s hardly shocking: Kids who experience destitution and all the problems that come with it have enough trouble just surviving, much less succeeding in school. [We need a war on poverty, not teachers., November 7, 2013.]
The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that Michigan has a staggering 50 percent of Michigan kids ages 0-8 live in low income families.  The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success, Annie E. Casey Foundation.  Besides the poverty that many schools in Michigan have to grapple with, they also have to deal with ever-increasing micromanagement from Lansing, but inadequate funding from Lansing.  Some schools receive as much as $12,000 per student from the state, which others receive as little as $7,000.  What kind of education do you get if you spend $12,000 per student?, State of Opportunity, November 6, 2013. Rather than addressing these problems, the current administration has imposed draconian cuts on K-12 education. And because of Proposal A, schools are prohibited from raising additional revenue fro operating expenses locally. 

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