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The Conversation I’m Tired of Writing About: Funding Equity

January 28, 2016

My daughter sent me a link to a blog post written by Nate Bowling titled “The Conversation I’m Tired of Not Having”. The post is full of insights and great quotes about the state of public education today and the public indifference that led to the state of affairs. The first paragraph sets the tone for the post:

I want to tell you a secret: America really doesn’t care what happens to poor people and most black people. There I said it.

Bowling buttresses this assertion with a series of observations underscoring the fact that white suburbanites would never stand for the deplorable physical conditions visited upon poor minority students nor would they tolerate the kind of leadership and instruction that occurs in those school districts. But, analogizing the desegregation and equity arguments to gun control, he notes that the public’s indifference to the horrific conditions in Detroit and the political will to solve the problem are no different than the public’s indifference and lack of political will to address gun control after the killings of innocent school children at Sandy Hook. Bowling then concludes his overview of the current state of affairs with this paragraph:

So what is to be done? The pessimist in me says nothing can be done. Polite society has walled itself off and policymakers are largely indifferent. Better funding for schools is and will remain elusive, because middle class and wealthy people have been conditioned over the last 35 years to think of themselves as taxpayers, rather than citizens. They consistently oppose higher taxes–especially tax expenditures for programs for “the other.”

Having abandoned hope for funding reform, Bowling looks to teachers themselves. Instead of getting involved in sideshow arguments over the Common Core, teacher evaluation models, or privatization, Mr. Bowling, a Teacher of the Year, pledges to devote his energy to:

  • Fighting the impacts of systemic racism and white supremacy in our schools and among teachers.

  • Helping, through my speaking opportunities, to recruit passionate people, especially people of color into the profession. 

  • Supporting policies aimed at identifying, developing and retaining effective teachers.

  • Advocating for the creation of systems that encourage our most effective and passionate teachers to stay in the profession and supporting them in working with our most needy schools.

  • Encouraging policymakers to make the work of effective teachers rewarding and sustainable by trusting them and not burdening them with new and ever changing mandates.

  • Giving teachers opportunities to lead, within the profession, while remaining in the classroom.

These are all worthy goals… but their success relies on providing idealistic and dedicated teachers who share Mr. Bowling’s attitudes with wages and working conditions that will enable equally idealistic and dedicated administrators and school boards to create “…systems that encourage our most effective and passionate teachers to stay in the profession and supporting them in working with our most needy schools”…. and that leads back to the need for more funding for schools. From my perspective this ISN’T a chicken-egg argument. You cannot expect urban schools that, on average, receive $1700 per student less than suburban schools, to perform at the same level…. and you can’t expect a gifted and hardworking teacher to stay in a job in a dilapidated school with a salary that is 80% of that in a well-heeled suburban district unless that teacher’s talent and grit is matched with a high level of idealism. In the end, money matters and while Mr. Bowling works on his end to provide good teachers for children raised in poverty I will try to find ways to get middle class and wealthy people to think of themselves as citizens instead of taxpayers.



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