School Funding: Where is the Money Going?


 

In typical k-12 public school settings, the current national average student enrollment is around 503 in 2018-19 school year. That’s at least 500 parents and caregivers and that is a big number.

School reform, turnaround and improvement is the objective for practically every urban and rural public school in the U.S. Particularly important in the quest for improved student academic performance, test scores, graduation rates is family involvement.

For educators to facilitate optimal learning outcomes in a classroom setting, there are class size caps on enrollment. We don’t wish to overwhelm teachers and prevent the individualized instruction  students need. Therefore, we have implemented co-teaching in many environments.

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Similarly, school counselors, are tasked with addressing student mental health concerns, behavioral symptoms and ensure appropriate services are provided to students as needed, among other interventions. Assigning one counselor to one school should be considered ridiculous and counter-intuitive when there may be 500 or more students in any public school.

Unfortunately, not every public k12 school has even one school counselor. This doesn’t make sense for environments where professionals are expected to be familiar with research data  to inform practices. There should be at least one counselor per school, and optimally two.

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We have parent and family engagement workers in schools now. That is good-a step in the right direction. But, like counselors, one liaison for 500 families is equally inadvisable. Families are complex systems and each have unique needs and concerns. When the family struggles at home, the student is most likely to struggle in school.

One liaison to encourage engagement, build capacity, cannot do it alone. Is it realistic to expect significant positive change when we expect miracles of one engagement professional?

SEA [state education agencies]and LEA’s[local education agencies] should be well aware of the needs of the students and communities in their state or district. We collect student and family data in order to deliver quality public educational experiences, though looking at present funding  streams, one can hardly tell.

The most vulnerable populations, located in lower income and under-served school communities are the places where focused attention should be placed. As opposed to highlighting what is wrong in these areas, the focus should be on how we can make them work better. This would bring us back to the beginning.

There’s a saying,”it takes money to make money”, and the money is there in the budget for educational institutions. Where is it going? To whom is it going and who benefits? Not the neediest.

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Let’s see! We can’t reduce the budget earmarked for free meals at school, because many children rely on those meals.  Food insecurity exists and children learn best when they are well fed and well rested.

In 17 states, low-income students comprise the majority of all public school students. It has been predicted that barring change, for these students, poverty levels will be as high as 25%. Approximately 1 in 4 students will be  in families living near or at the federal poverty level. More families will have children growing up in more difficult circumstances since the Great Depression.

Shift focus! Resources should go where the need is greatest to better ensure successful upward mobility for families. Their hope rests with their children. Our hope lies at the feet of their children, also!

It makes sense that, for these populations, we should place greater emphasis on providing extra funding. Under served is  under-resourced and under-prepared for academic success!  In order to raise the levels of achievement in these schools, there needs to be more access to more resources and more partnerships to build upon the strengths they possess.

The funds which support the operation of our schools should not depend on taxes or voter engagement. It should be based solely on need.

Children become ‘special needs’ students by the scarcity of resources, not organic deficits. Deficits are created. Toxic stress, trauma, family disruption through over-criminalization or just because of skin color…..all daily realities.

Family engagement is extremely necessary to  empower parents with tools, skills and information to best support and advocate for themselves and their child’s education. Until then, we can’t blame parents or hold them accountable.

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Once again, as we look to cap class size, increase teacher cultural competence, and diversify the methods by which we communicate and partner with families, one liaison is insufficient as a magic bullet for parent engagement.

Schools need adequate staff to address challenges and meet needs, provide ample opportunities to effectively partner with families. Families and students are held up to the standards of middle class whites, when they have no reference for the middle class or white experience in America. What they know is what they see on television- a 2-dimensional, third person source of information. Is that all they get?

On the day that we eradicate the social inequities, in place by design, students and families will receive the necessary resources, positive regard and respect for what they CAN bring to us, from the classroom to the boardroom. We have to cease quantifying student performance, labeling them as ‘failing’, sub-par, or inferior when it is the goal.

If we wish for a certain segment of a population to fail, the most effective means to that end is to desert them, limit funds, subsidies, cultural venues, etc… We label them thereafter and lead them to believe that is who they are and what they deserve. Not nice. We provide minimal resources, slim to no opportunities, and inadequate supports. These are the populations who need our support most. That is, more relevant future-focused supported learning opportunities and less supplemental school safety officer ‘support’, whose presence represents and conveys negative subliminal messages to these students.

Take the politics out of education. Think futures! Public officials, LEA and SEAs, who are willing to see the reality that educators, students and families face, will fund wars less and education more-where it’s most needed. It is redundant to overly fund public school districts where wealth that already exists is substantially greater and total less need for subsidy. Is that what is meant when it is said, “the rich get richer….”? Where is the money going?

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