“If you want to know the true intent of policy makers and educational leaders, follow the money!” – Rev. Douglass Demetrius Prather, Educational Advocate
In his first 100 days of serving, President Trump called for $1.4 billion in new funding for school choice programs. His vision includes an increase of $250 million to subsidize tuition for private schools and $168 million for expanding charter schools. Again, further dividing public traditional schools from public charter schools and the battle for funding. An additional $1 billion is for a program that would allow students to attend a public school of their choice. Many advocates are hoping that this program will include charter schools although the new administration seems to be the focusing on parents wanting to be in public charters. Will the funding benefit families and students in charter schools, of course. But what is the intent behind funding school choice programs while public education continues to suffer?
Education definitely needs more attention, funding and support. In Georgia, we worked with parent, community and education advocates as well as our elected officials to pass House Bill 430. Earlier this year, I joined fellow GA CAN advocates, parents, students and lobbyists working to get more support for schools. In recent conversations with teachers, parents and students, their constant message has been that funding isn’t the answer to all the issues in Education. I totally agree! Yes, it’s great that financial resources help sustain the operations of the school, but that’s not what drives student achievement. I’ve witnessed schools receive thousands of dollars in general, federal and grant funding and the culture and climate of the schools still sucked! In working with parents and advocates, one key factor I focus on is helping them understand how much money school Districts spend per student.
Not only is it important for parents and stakeholders to know how much money is spent per pupil/student, but it’s equally important to know how funds are used to support the total school program. I’ve observed in school meetings with parents an stakeholders that a lot of schools spend a significant amount of money on academic resources, salaries for leadership and operations. However, areas that are often overlooked including teacher steps/salaries, enrichment programs, staff support i.e. administrative, nurses, counselors, family engagement support staff, crossing guards, graduation coaches, social workers, etc. are often underfunded and stretched to capacity. Many sub groups including ELL, homeless, migrant and students with special needs receive additional funding as well.
The current funding system that is based off a communities tax base often times penalizes children and communities that need additional resources but due to family/household income don’t reach the mark. In fact, the current funding dynamics benefits higher income communities because they see immediate results in their investment. Equity makes public education inclusive, fluid and transforming for all students. The call and need for advocacy around equitable funding for schools first begins with accepting and acknowledging the bias in our government systems that for years protected, invested in and ensured that privilege is protected. After the New Deal, African Americans and people of color were structurally moved into affordable housing projects and communities to protect home loans of suburban American communities. It was a clear line separating and preventing the expansion of middle and upper class citizens. For years, the funding formula for schools has been based off of this dynamic so we shouldn’t be shocked as to why inner city, urban and rural school Districts struggle with making sure that children in America outside the bubble of privilege receive adequate educational resources.
Here are questions that parents and stakeholders should ask in order to help hold schools accountable fiscally:
- What are the funding sources for our school?
- What are the accountability measures for our budget?
- How are we involved in the evaluation process for our school’s funds?
- What is the amount of funding received for all supplemental support?
- In what ways can stakeholders be more involved in reviewing and supporting the school budget?