Wednesday, April 26, 2006

School Finance

I have to admit I am not educated enough about the politics of the school finance law that keeps coming up here in Texas. I do know that our state legislature is taxed with coming up with a solution by June. I seriously wonder if that will happen.

Basically, what I know (someone correct me if I'm wrong) is that wealthy districts had something like a cap on the amount of money they could keep for their local school out of their taxes. Any money above that amount went into a fund that then was distributed to poor schools who had a much lower tax base. Thus, the bill was appropriately called "Robin Hood."

I know no one wants to have money taken away from their schools or their children. I know that parents want the best for their children. But what about those families who do work hard and pay their taxes, yet because their job doesn't pay as well as someone else's, their child's school gets less funding? Or, here's another reality, what about the families that don't work or maybe those who are addicts and they don't put money into the system, should their child be doomed to the same type of lifestyle because his/her parent made some bad choices in life?

I am very much against charity. Probably to a fault, in some instances. However, I see education as the great equalizer...well, at least it has the potential to be. In order to be that great equalizer, we must have an equitable system. Equitable doesn't always mean the same for everybody. Many of our low-income schools and children need more just to get caught up (see tomorrow's post for a discussion on how far behind some of our children are).

Many people will say, "It's not about money." If it's not, then why are the wealthy fighting so hard to make sure that they keep all of their money?? A quote from an article by Laurie Fox in the Dallas Morning News on Sunday caught my eye:

"School districts now are more alike than different," said Cathy Bryce, the Highland Park superintendent. "But we're all in the same inadequate circumstances. Equity and adequacy has not served our children well."
I think anyone in my neighborhood would be happy if they had Highland Park's "inadequate circumstances." If "equity and adequacy" hasn't served their children well, then how are their kids still scoring at the top on tests and getting into selective schools? And what could their same "inadequate circumstances" do for those in lower-income neighborhoods who are dealing with much more inequitable and inadequate circumstances than Highland Park?

I'm sure if I were a parent in a wealthier neighborhood, I would want my child to have what I had the opportunity to give them. But, if "adequate" funding is only given to those who have money, then what happens to the districts that don't have the high tax base? Do we just have to face the fact that wealthier schools and neighborhoods get what they need and want while poorer schools just don't?? Do people in low-income neighborhoods have to keep dreaming that one of these days they'll somehow be able to afford to move out to some suburb where their children can get a better education? There's got to be a better solution.

It does amaze me that despite paying all of their taxes that ended up sending millions of dollars to lower income districts, the parents in Highland Park were still able to raise $2.5 million to pay for things like computers and teacher salaries and such. In my experience, fundraisers in my neighborhood, have brought in maybe $150-$300.

I'm not trying to put down Highland Park. Those are just figures that stood out to me in the article. Click the heading of this blog for the full article.

I don't know of a solution myself. I wish I did. I just hope as people make these decisions, they realize that kids of all economic levels have potential and deserve the opportunity of the best education possible.
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