The Problems And Solutions To Fund Public Schools
LAUSD is the second biggest school district in the United States (only behind New York), and the way it is being funded is very unfair to those schools in lower income communities compared to those schools in higher income communities. The inequality differences between the different public schools in different parts of Los Angeles, from North Hollywood all the way down to South Central where I went to school, is easily noticeable. From the busted rooms and books all the way to the schools gyms, it all stems from how schools are funded within LAUSD and the areas those schools are in.
While it is obvious that schools in the lower income neighborhoods are heavily underfunded compared to their higher income counterparts. So how does the location where you live affect your education? It starts with how each of the schools are funded, schools in lower income neighborhoods are more than likely to receive less funding then richer areas in Los Angeles. A part of the funding from Los Angeles comes from their areas property tax, so based on their locations, that will determine how much money that school in that area will get. So coincidentally, schools in the higher income, rich parts of Los Angeles will obviously have more funding because of the area, nicer neighborhoods, bigger houses and not as much crime going on. And the schools in low income neighborhoods will eventually leave them with less resources.
Children in low income neighborhoods are more likely to struggle with economic and social struggles than other kids and those struggles will bleed into their academics negatively. And with less funding, it gives those schools less resources to help their students. Schools in higher income neighborhoods are able to give out better resources like health and recreational facilities, but schools in poorer areas will suffer the negative consequences of not having those resources around them due to not having the funding to have those things in the first place. And some may blame the kids in those lower income neighborhoods for their lower test scores and lower grades when in fact it is because of their environment. It is way harder to be successful with resources that they do not have in the first place.
(move up) Schools in lower income neighborhoods are at an extreme disadvantage in terms of funding for school and student academics. The cause of this, according to an article written by The Guardian, “Proposition 13 drastically cut and capped property taxes and hobbled the ability of California counties — and, indirectly, the state — to raise money for schools and other key social programs.” This is important because it changed the amount of money districts can raise for schools, thus entirely cutting schools funding by nearly one third and forcing the state to try and make up not all but some of the funding. And obviously this affected every school in the district, but specifically this really hurt schools in lower income areas, because even before the the proposition was passed, schools in lower income areas were already at a disadvantage and underfunded, but implementing this prop slashed the fundings hugely, and with the state having to try and make up for the funding, it only did more harm than good.
The reason that this proposition was passed in the first place was that, according to another article written by The Guardian, “was billed as a grassroots tax revolt against a backdrop of high inflation, rising interest rates and a perception of out-of-control public spending.” So at that time, they did not understand the full repercussions of what this proposition could possibly bring to lower income areas and the schools surrounding them. It was all just for some tax cuts on their properties but the legacy that proposition will leave behind would go on to haunt kids in South Central Los Angeles, Compton, East Los Angeles and any other schools in LAUSD in lower income neighborhoods.
Even schools in more affluent neighborhoods decided that that slash in funding was the last straw for them, “‘If I can’t buy better education than my neighbors, why am I paying all these property taxes?” (Imazeki). So they decided to move their kids out and into private schools with way better funding. So the events after proposition 13 was passed heavily affected schools in lower income neighborhoods and even before that, the inequality in funding was huge.
So what can we do to help change how LAUSD funds their public schools. So besides using the property tax to fund public schools, the state also gives funding based on Average Daily Attendance. So every day a student misses class, that school loses funding. According to The Reason Foundation, “Increasing the district’s attendance to just the statewide average — a relatively low bar to achieve — would generate an additional $45 million per year” (Reason Foundation). This is important because not only does it stray away the importance of kids attending schools just to get extra funding, but it helps those schools boost academic performance and other academic outcomes such as that schools graduation rate.
Another way to help improve upon this problem is to improve the staff attendance. As of now, 75% of LAUSD staff members have strong attendance according to the district. So according to The Reason Foundation, “Bolstering this number to 90 percent would save about $15 million on substitute teachers while also providing students with more stable classroom environments” (Reason Foundation). Not only is this important because it will bring in an extra $15 million from saving on paying for more substitute teachers, but it will also help students because with more time and better consistency with their normal teachers and not a substitute, will help improve their academic performances and ensure a stable environment within the classroom.
The effects of Proposition 13 has a legacy that will forever loom over public schools in the Los Angeles area. Cutting nearly a third of funding for public schools, where schools in lower income areas were already at an unfair disadvantage, but after Proposition 13, entirely screwed them over by cutting more funding, causing schools to cut down on expenses at every school and less resources for those students in lower income neighborhood leaving them at a severe disadvantage in their academics. Thus leaving schools to find new ways to receive funding, but it shouldn’t have to come to that, schools, especially schools in lower income areas should receive more funding than they do now in order to give those students the resources they need and the resources that kids in schools at Hollywood already have.
The way schools issue their funding in Los Angeles public schools is indicative of the unfairness that kids born in lower income neighborhoods are born into, it isn’t their fault that they live in a lower income neighborhood, so not even a few years into their education life, they are already at an unfair disadvantage compared to their counterparts in higher income neighborhoods in Los Angeles like Hollywood or Beverly Hills. This is because schools in the United States are funded in a few ways: The main way that schools are funded is the reason why schools in higher income neighborhoods have the resources that other schools only wish to have. Schools receive part of their funding through property taxes from the surrounding neighborhood. So just from schools are already at an unfair advantage.
But public schools globally are not funding like how they are funding in the United States. Countries such as the Netherlands and France fund schools in richer areas and in poorer areas around the same. And even schools in the Netherlands fund their school based on how many students are enrolled in the school. This is stark difference because public schools in the United States don’t receive funding based on how many students are enrolled, instead they fund those schools based on attendance, that’s why I remember so vividly teachers and administrators telling my classmates and I that to always come to school and keep an attendance of at least over 95% for the year.
In the Netherlands for example, “for every guilder allocated to a middle-class Dutch child, 1.25 guilders are allocated for a lower-class child and 1.9 guilders for a minority child”. So essentially in the Netherlands they prioritize allocating their money for public school funding to children in the lower income class, which is exactly the opposite of what public schools in the United States do. In the United States, children in lower income neighborhoods typically receive way less funding than children in higher income neighborhoods. And in the United States, spending on public education has decreased about 3% from 2010 to 2014 while the number of students enrolled in public schools has increased by 1%. While other countries have “education spending, on average, rose 5 percent per student across the 35 countries in the OECD”. So in the United States, they are going backgrounds instead of moving forward like every other country.
On top of the way other countries fund their education like the Netherlands, socio-economic class also plays a huge role in the United States compared to other countries. According to The Atlantic, “Fifteen percent of the American score variation is explained by socio-economic differences between students. Less than 10 percent of score variation in Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, and Norway is due to socio-economic differences”. This quote proves the entire argument that based on your surroundings/where you are born and raised really affects your education and the resources you have in order to be successful.
The United States also has a lower amount of resilient students, which PISA defines as, “students who are among the 25 percent most socio-economically disadvantaged students but perform much better than would be predicted by their socio-economic class”. In the United States seven percent of students are considered resilient students” and in other countries like Hong Kong, Korea, and Vietnam, thirteen percent of students are considered resilient students. All these statistics show that your economic status, especially in America really affects the type of education you will receive, the area and the neighborhood you live in really can put you at a disadvantage compared to kids in higher income neighborhoods. But in other countries your economic status is not as much as a factor to your education and the resources you may receive. That is because schools in other countries fund their schools more based on need and equally spread the funding compared to the United States, who fund schools based on your surrounding areas and neighborhoods.
It is apparent that the way that the United States funds public schools is not the fairest way to fund schools, especially because schools in lower income neighborhoods are being put at an extreme disadvantage and will put them behind compared to other students’ higher income neighborhoods. In order to understand why this is happening and why it is so unfair to kids in lower income neighborhoods, we have to look at other countries and the way that they fund public schools. Such as how the Netherlands specifically fund schools by students and their economic status. Students with a lower family income will receive more school funding than kids with higher incomes which ultimately makes their education path much more fair and gives those kids the resources that they need. Funding public schools should be looked at on a global scale in order to better understand and study the ways in which certain countries have a successful public school system.
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Lisa Snell, Lisa, et al. “Five Recommendations to Solve LAUSD’s Looming Fiscal Crisis.” Reason Foundation, Reason Foundation, 13 June 2018, https://reason.org/commentary/five-recommendations-to-solve-lausds-looming-fiscal-crisis/.
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