This month, a group of ministers in the Chicagoland area called for a boycott of the first day of school. The reason they want to hold children back from their classrooms is in protest of the way schools are funded in Illinois. Let me first say, I think it’s ridiculous to boycott in this way – the only people really inconvenienced or hurt by keeping kids out of the classroom are the kids. But, on the whole I agree with them. The funding system here is unfair. The way it works is that schools are funded by the property taxes paid in the area, so obviously affluent suburbs have a greater amount of money to work with and far fewer students to educate.
Some suburbs have as much as $17,000.00 per student, where the inner city has about $10,000.00. Yep, that’s a discrepancy and in a public school system I have to agree that the amount of money your family earns should have no bearing on the type of education available to you through that system…
But, here’s where I diverge. Catholic Schools need about $5,000.00 per student to educate their pupils. That’s half of what’s available in the city schools. Catholic School students, on the whole, out perform their public school counterparts and a far greater percentage of them finish high school and go on to college. Now, I mentioned before that I moved my own kids from the local Catholic School to the local public school last year – so I do believe children can get a good education in the public school system – but I don’t think the answer is to throw money at it.
I think if this protest works and the funding is more equally dispersed, it will have little to no effect on how well the children in those districts are educated. I think the call for more funding in education is a great rally cry for politicians, but it doesn’t do anything to solve the problems in education.
I think what we really need to do is look at the schools that succeed (regardless if they’re public or privately funded) and see where they differ from the schools that are failing and I think the biggest variance you’ll see is in the pupils’ own families. Kids who succeed in school have parents who are supportive of their education. They have parents who come to all of their school functions, volunteer to help in the classroom, or in whatever way available to them they show their child that they value the work they do in school. They treat the child’s school career with the same respect that they treat their own career.
That is the first variance I see, there are others, but we have to own the fact that a child’s first and most powerful educator is his / her family. In other words, counting on politicians to solve this problem is ludicrous. First, most politicians do not use the public school system. They send their own children to private schools that the average American cannot afford. So why would we count on them to fix a system that they have no vested personal interest in and, quite frankly, don’t take the time to understand? And even the well-meaning politician who honestly wants to champion the school system is at a disadvantage – even the best system and most dedicated teachers can do little to educate a child whose parents won’t work with them.
I think we’ve come to a point in this country where, when things are not working, we automatically want the government to fix it and I think that’s dangerous. We need to own our own communities and our own lives.
There are other reasons education is failing in areas here, and I’d love to talk about that in the comments section, but I think the number one decider of a child’s success at school will be in the support they receive early on and throughout their education. A close second is the amount of support their peers receive, because I can be as proactive in my child’s moral and academic growth as possible, but if they’re in a classroom full of kids whose parents don’t care, kids who then start misbehaving or being disruptive, well, obviously, that puts every child at a disadvantage to learn.
If I had that situation in my own kids public school, I’d move them right back to Catholic School without batting an eye… it doesn’t solve the problem in the school system, though, does it? And right now, many parents’ hands are tied in where their child attends school because private education is very expensive.
This is a far reaching topic and I think there are a lot of variables. What do you think? How do we fix it? Can it be fixed? Do you think more government input on individual school districts is the answer, or less? Do you think more funding will solve it?