BLOG – It’s an expensive endeavor to educate the children of the United States. Schools require funding from the state, local, and federal levels in order to give children the education they need. And yet, the funding is not enough. The amount of funding and allocation of those funds is in such peril that the funding decisions have stopped being about the students. How schools are funded and how much they are getting is in shambles, resulting in an allocation of funds that isn’t benefiting anyone. Education is on the back burner and school district upkeep isn’t a priority. Who can you blame, and what can be done when school funding decisions are no longer about the students?
How Schools are Funded
Many states handle funding differently, but in general, schools are largely funded on a local level. State and local governments fund public education by way of taxes — sales, income, and property tax. The federal government funds less than 10 percent of K-12 public education. Because of this funding model, it’s poor communities that suffer. When the properties in the community are of low value, so are the property taxes that determine how much funding a school can get. When a child’s education is based on the wealth of their parents and their community, it’s the child who suffers.
School Funding in Desperate Times
When a school is underfunded, it is forced to make budgeting decisions that aren’t beneficial to students. Classrooms are full, positions are cut, programs are defunded, and funds go directly to the pain points and necessities. Districts go into survival mode and act like a body does when it’s underfed: it focuses on the basics and keeping those systems running. When this happens it will affect someone’s child in one way or another. It could affect children in art programs, those who thrive in smaller classrooms, or low-income students who rely on affordable lunch programs. Students suffer in a variety of ways. When social and emotional education is key in bullying prevention efforts, it’s detrimental to cut anti-bullying campaigns. However, many districts don’t have much of a choice.
Putting Education on the Backburner
When schools struggle with funding, education suffers. Technology is such an important aspect of learning, and it’s one of the things that gets put on the backburner when funding is problematic. Not only do students respond better to technology in education since technology has become commonplace in other areas of children’s lives, it’s also an aspect of education that is always in need of updating. When you can’t even afford new books or enough teachers, technology is not on the top of the priority list – even if it’s shown to improve education.
The funding gap favors schools in a better economic standing and, therefore, puts struggling schools and their students in a harder spot in terms of education. With No Child Left Behind, the problem is even worse. This act is meant for schools and teachers to be held accountable for their student’s education. If the standardized tests don’t show that students are learning, federal funding is cut even more. Unfortunately, the schools with poor funding and less ability to educate in low-income communities tend to have lower scores, and the cycle continues.
Sacrificing Safety and Upkeep
Kids are expensive to educate, and schools are expensive to maintain. When there’s a public education funding gap, it’s not just education that suffers — it’s also safety and upkeep that suffers. The threshold for safety changes frequently, which is one of the reasons why large school buildings are always in need of updates. Playgrounds have to be updated to meet higher safety standards, building codes have to be met, and safety concerns specific to each school have to be remedied. When a district has to focus on keeping the lights on and maintaining salaries for educators, it’s difficult to prioritize the safety and upkeep of a school’s surroundings. There is something to be said for your environment and the affect it has on productivity. Things like safety, organization, and even lighting can have an affect on students and their education potential.
What Can Be Done
School funding decisions are made with money in mind, not the students. In order to switch that mindset, the changes won’t happen overnight. In fact, bridging the funding gap would be quite the overhaul. There’s a lot happening in terms of education funding for K-12 public education, and being educated on those decisions is job one for parents. There are proposals to cut funding to public schools and an increase in funding for charter schools, which even some charter school chiefs aren’t happy about because of the students who will suffer as a result. Staying educated on these proposals and resistant to motions that would hurt the majority of students is key. For many parents with students who benefit from the status quo, it can be difficult to push back from the funding decisions happening now. However, the truth is that it’s hurting many students the way it is now.
Stay knowledgeable on local issues as much as national issues since most of a school district’s funding comes from the state and local level. Research levies, be a voice for low-income schools and vote with all students in mind, not just yours. Understand what budget cuts can mean for a school and how detrimental it can be for students to lose funding. Use your voice for your area schools and you’ll be doing a great service for them.
Education is a word that loses its importance on a broad scale. When politicians and voters use that word, it’s to signify a wide lens of students and the education they receive. However, education funding isn’t a broad issue that affects everyone in the same way. Education funding is an issue that affects rural areas, low-income students, and institutions with poor economic backgrounds a lot more because they need more and are getting less. As a result, the students suffer. Programs are cut, schools are barely surviving, education is put on the backburner, and safety and upkeep suffer as well. Combating the problem involves using your voice to speak for all students and staying informed on education issues both nationally and locally. Eventually, funding decisions might be made with the students in mind.