Restructuring the K-12 Education System
There has always been a disconnect in the American K-12 system as it relates to equitable funding for all schools. This inequitable allocation of resources has presented systematic and systemic disadvantages for lower socioeconomic classes and minorities.
Currently, the K-12 system is funded by a mix of government funding and property taxes. All schools receive around the same amount of funding from the federal government and can acquire additional money from other government entities by applying for grants. However, inequity is introduced when property taxes are added to the equation. In addition to government funding, public schools receive a percentage of the taxes paid on the property. This can introduce a difference in funding per student and can affect the student’s success in that district. As of 2021, Naperville School District 203 is able to spend an average of $16,000 per student on resources, school improvements, teachers, etc. Moreover, the majority of the dollars are supported by local funding, which consists of property taxes or funding from the City of Naperville. On the other hand, Aurora East School District 131 is only able to spend about $13,000 per student. This creates a $3,000 difference in spending per student on educational resources. $3,000 may not seem like a lot of money when it is examined per student, but if you multiply that by 12,982, the number of enrolled students in District 131; that equates to a difference of $38,946,000 in funding. That amount of money could create more jobs, buildings, and resources to help students become successful. Despite the difference in funding students are still held to the same standards across the board and are expected to pass the same test or examinations as their wealthier district counterparts.
I had the benefit of experiencing this gap firsthand. For half of my high school career, I had the ability to attend Merrillville High School and I was able to attend Naperville Central High School for the later have of my career. Merrillville High School was a school similarly funded like Aurora East District 131. There was not an abundance of resources always available to make a lot of pilot programs, but they were able to operate and get the job done with the resources they had access to. On the other hand, Naperville Central High School always had an abundance of resources to create new programs, opportunities, and networking events with key stakeholders in Naperville for their students. Merrillville High School was in a transitional period of testing out Chromebook technology in the classroom when I was leaving but there was still a way to go before students have technology in the classroom. Because of this, the school was having to teach from outdated textbooks and resources. This was mostly because new school additions were only printed and purchased every ten years. At Naperville Central High School students were given their own personal Chromebook to keep for the school year and had access to textbooks and resources that were updated every semester, if not every year. At Merrillville High School went piloting new school programs they often used simulators because of cost restrictions and the ability to reuse the program every year. For example, in business class to learn about business management we used a program with preloaded prompted responses to help us get a feel for the business. While Naperville Central High School had more resources to allow students to experience and learn in real people. For example, for our business class, we started businesses and had to present to a board at the end of the year to get funding dollars for our business. The process was similar to the tv show Shark Tank. This allowed many students to start businesses and have funding right out of college, which can have a huge trajectory on students’ paths after high school.
These huge differences in funding create environments that are not equitable or beneficial for the success of all students. Reallocating re-constructing the education system is the only way to combat the inequitable funding between and across districts. I was able to host a panel with current, future, and retired educators in the collegiate and K-12 education area about this topic which can be viewed below. During this panel we discuss things and ideas that could be implemented that can better support and setup up students for success regardless of their socioeconomic background.